Marco Pinotti’s Vuelta a España diary: Quiet time trial due to illness
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Marco Pinotti’s Vuelta a España diary: Quiet time trial due to illness

by Marco Pinotti at 5:38 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Vuelta a España
“Martin was impressive during his break; when we were in HTC, we used to call him Ten K Tony”

Marco PinottiToday was the time trial day and I was hoping to do well in it, but I’ve been sick for a couple of days now and that showed. I tried to target a number in the first few kilometres of the climb, but I could only hold it for about ten minutes. I then felt that the legs were not performing as I hoped. I tried to go as hard as possible, especially in the second part, but I was really suffering.

In the end I finished 25th, which is not where I wanted to be. I was disappointed not to ride at my normal level. I was second in the time trial in the Tour of Austria and fourth in the Tour of Poland. Here, in the team time trial at the start of the Vuelta, the numbers were a little higher than in Poland.

Before I got sick, I had been aiming for top ten today, at least. On a course like that I was longing for a good result. It was hillier than many time trials and suited lighter riders. You could see that guys like Pozzovivo did well because of the uphill section. Okay, you can lose time on the downhill if you are light, but not as much as you gain going up.

Anyway, the problem is that I have a sinus infection. We knew for a couple of days that something wasn’t right, thinking it was a cold, and the doctor put me in a single room to avoid any possible infection with other team-mates.

I didn’t feel right during the TT and then I had a headache after the finish. It was the one where you feel a strong pain above the eyes. The doctor looked at my chest and said it was quite clear – he said that there is some mucus, but that it is coming from my nose rather than being a chest infection.

He gave me antibiotics but told me there is only one chance in three that they will work. If that doesn’t happen, the only way to get healthy is to rest and let the body do the work. But I will keep going and see what happens tomorrow.

I guess I have to be philosophical. If I bear in mind that I was not completely healthy, it was not such a bad performance. If I get over this small illness, I think my form will come back quickly. A lot of the TT work I need to do for the worlds has been done by now.

Long distance effort:

One of my aims in this Vuelta was to get in a long breakaway. It may not have had much chance of going to the line with the sprinters’ teams all working hard to set their riders up, but for me those kinds of efforts are the key to building fitness.

I’ve been trying to vary things in the Vuelta. Some days I try to spend time in the grupetto as soon as my work for the team is done. Making that long effort on stage seven was important, and I ended up going clear with Christian Knees (Sky) and Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural).

I realised beforehand that it was one the best days to try, one of the few where the course was very easy. The profile in the race book doesn’t do justice to what the real terrain is in this Vuelta…each day we do a lot of climbing. But stage seven was a chance.

Before that, though, I had already tried to get clear on stage six. That was the day where Tony Martin did his really impressive break. He surprised me a little because he went right after the neutral zone finished. It was a downhill section - when the car of the director of the race accelerated, he took the speed from them. That gave him a gap.

He wasn’t planning something like this, he just found himself 100 metres ahead of the peloton, but he kept the speed.

At the beginning I thought that the sprinters’ teams wouldn’t let the Quick Step guys go. However they decided that it was just one rider and maybe they could manage it. I tried a couple of times to join him but then they chased me down. I was told that one time trialist was enough; two was a little bit harder to control.

As you would have seen if you watched the stage, Martin had a gap for almost the entire stage. It came down inside the final hour but he was able to hold off the bunch for a long time, despite the gap not being very big. Tony counted for three riders, he is so powerful. It showed his level of fitness at this moment.

It looked like he was playing with the bunch a little, but I was expecting him to be able to do something like this. When we were in HTC, we used to call him Ten K Tony. When we were going for a sprint, he used to pull from ten k until maybe three or four k - or even less - from the finish.

He has the ability to go very, very deep for ten kilometres. If he has a couple of minutes with twenty kilometres to go, it is not like a usual breakaway that you can take a minute back every ten kilometres. Even if he is alone, he has got the power.

Anyway, back to the break I was in. I was sure it was hopeless because the sprinter teams made a mistake the day before, nearly being beaten by Tony, and they didn’t want to do it again. My aim was just to get into the break and then to try to go as far as possible, building my form for the worlds.

It was matter of going hard in the beginning, then trying to go relatively easy during the stage, then really, really hard in the last hour of racing. The problem was that many riders in the peloton knew about the finishing circuit, the stage that Stybar ultimately won. There was a lot of pressure in the peloton to stay in the front. The speed was going up all the time, and that is why it was difficult.

Anyway, the most important thing was for me to make that effort, though, to build my condition.

Chaotic Vuelta, and Chris Horner’s form:

Marco PinottiThere were a couple of big crashes in the neutral zone on Monday. The first was due to speed bumps and the second due to slippery tarmac on the roundabout. The neutrals here in this Vuelta are between eight to ten kilometres long every day. They are always quite nervous, with the peloton being excited to start.

Anyway, that neutral zone caused perhaps more damage than the whole day’s racing, in terms of riders dropping out from the race.

If you see a rider retiring from a Grand Tour after half way, it is usually only riders who get injured after a crash. This confirms the level of competition and the average degree of preparation of riders when they enter a Grand Tour. Nobody is dropped from fatigue. Okay, on Monday you had two riders pulled out by the jury [Thomas de Gendt and Andrew Fenn – ed.], but all the rest was only caused by injury.

The other big news about that day was Chris Horner’s win. He has been going very strongly in the climbs, achieving the highest performance of the peloton. He has a pattern to his racing career, the fact that he is able to come back strongly after being away from racing with an injury.

If you saw his career after 2008 or 2009, he had a lot of small injuries. Each time, he comes back very strong after that.

From what I can see, he is a high responder to training. He probably only needs relatively few weeks of training to find his form. I know he trains very, very hard, but it is not like the guy who needs four months of base to find a good level. Every time he comes back he is competitive, especially in the climbs.

He is very strong in climbing, not so strong in time trials. That is maybe due to his climbing style, which is unique. He is always out of the saddle. It seems to be a paradox, but I think for Horner it is perhaps that he has a very high height to weight ratio. He has already lost some kilos – he is maybe 63, 64 kilos now, but he is probably 180 metres. So this height to weight ratio will help him to be efficient out of the saddle.

It didn’t help him much in the TT but I’m sure he’ll try to get back up there in the days ahead.

Thanks for reading,


About Marco Pinotti: A pro rider since 1999, Marco Pinotti has spent the past two seasons with the BMC Racing team and is currently riding the Vuelta a España as part of the American WorldTour squad. The 37 year old has had a fine career, winning six national time trial championships, two stages of the Giro d’Italia, netting ninth in the Italian Grand Tour and winning the 2008 Tour of Ireland.

The world time trial championships is his big goal for this season, particularly as it is on home soil and because he was looking set for a possible bronze medal in 2012 prior to crashing out. He is riding the Vuelta as part of his preparation for the worlds, and will be writing a regular diary for VeloNation from the race.

An intelligent and respected rider, Pinotti has given an unique insight into the peloton in his book The Cycling Professor. For more details click here.


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