Marco Pinotti Interview: Fracture healed, Italian returns to competition in Canada
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Marco Pinotti Interview: Fracture healed, Italian returns to competition in Canada

by Shane Stokes at 11:26 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Injury
Determined to soak up final HTC Highroad time prior to BMC Racing Team move

Marco PinottiMany eyes will be on riders such as Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) and last year’s winner Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) in tomorrow’s GP Cycliste de Quebec, but another rider is also deserving of attention. Just over three months ago Marco Pinotti had a bad crash on stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia, fracturing his acetabulum in his pelvis. Bed-bound for weeks, he returned to training at the start of August and, five weeks on from that, is ready to begin racing again.

Known for his friendly nature and strong ethics, Pinotti is one of the most respected riders in the bunch. Many will be pleased to see him compete again. For his part, he said that he’s happy to be back.

“After the crash, I planned when I could return,” he told VeloNation in recent days. “Perhaps the only option was to come back in the Italian races. But now I will be there in Canada and that means that everything went according to plan, maybe a bit better than I expected.”

HTC Highroad rider Pinotti will line out alongside team-mates Hayden Roulston (New Zealand), Jan Ghyselinck (Belgium), Patrick Gretsch (Germany), plus the Americans Tejay Van Garderen, Caleb Fairly, Danny Pate and Craig Lewis. The latter also fell in the same Giro crash as Pinotti, breaking his femur, and is also getting back to racing now.

Both he and Pinotti are using tomorrow’s race plus Sunday’s GP Cycliste de Montreal to build their condition, and will therefore do the race in the service of the strongest riders. Gretsch and Van Garderen each showed strong form in the recent USA Pro Cycling Challenge and are the most likely to figure. Pinotti will do what he can, but knows that these races are primarily about him building back up for next season.

That promises to be a big year for him, as both he and Van Garderen will transfer across to the BMC Racing Team from the folding HTC setup.

In a long interview based on recent conversations, Pinotti spoke about his accident and recovery, his hopes for the rest of the season, his thoughts on the HTC Highroad team’s dissolution and his moving to the BMC Racing Team, targets for next year, his concerns about the UCI points system plus the need for greater sharing of revenue in the sport.

VeloNation: First off, Marco, congratulations on your new contract. What led you to decide to sign for the BMC Racing Team?

Marco Pinotti: I had a few choices but I saw the team was growing fast in the last few years. The most important thing was to be in a team with a good technology, good equipment for the time trial. I knew they had just released a new bike for the Tour. So I was looking for a team with good technology and good environment, because next year there is the Olympic Games and I want to have the best tools at my disposal.

The team is also growing fast and I know a few riders there. I think I will fit well in the team.

VN: The Tour de France route is not yet known, but perhaps there will be a team time trial in it. Do you think you will do the Giro or the Tour with BMC Racing next season?

MP: Well, I think first of all we have to see the course of both races. I am open to do just the Giro, just the Tour or both of them. Obviously being an Italian and having done well in the last few years in the Giro, my personal feeling is that I will do the Giro. I could also be in a position to the Tour to help Cadel. I think it will be the matter of what of course there is.

For example, if there is a team time trial, it might make more sense for me to do whichever race has the team time trial. I think we have to sit down and talk and explore all the options.

What I can tell you is that I am open to do both events. Next year what I want is to have a good programme to approach the Olympic Games, if possible to gain a slot in those Games. One way is to do the Tour de France, the other way is through training and doing other races. I can put myself into good form either with or without doing the Tour de France.

As I said, I am open to all different solutions. We will see the course. The personal feeling is I will do the Giro and achieve some personal goals. But we will see. It is something I will think about once I have the route of both races.

VN: Is it too difficult to do both the Giro and the Tour and to also be good in the Olympics?

MP: Well, it is also a matter of how the course is. This year, the Giro was hard and you can see the riders who did both races under-performed the second time. But if you look at the 2009 edition, it was different. The riders who were doing the Giro did really well in the Tour. It is a matter of what the route is like, and also if there is good weather, the race is less stressful. But if you have bad weather, as was the case last year and this year, the race is harder and more stressful on the body.

It also depends on the way you ride. If you go for GC in both of them, then it is tough. But if you just aim for stages, focus on the time trial and on helping team-mates, I think you can do both. A rider of my experience can do both. That said, I think if you are going to do both, one of those races will be stronger than the other one. Whether it is the first or the second one, it depends on how the route is and how you plan.

Canadian WorldTour races and beyond:

Marco PinottiPinotti’s return to racing is another step in his recovery, yet much remains to be decided. He’s determined to work hard and try to make up for lost time, but because of the uncertainty surrounding his condition and how fast he can get back to near the level he was at, he can’t yet be sure of what races he will be doing.

The world championships is something he’d love to participate in, but he has to weigh things up and decide if he can perform well enough to travel to Copenhagen later this month. He said he also has to be realistic about his targets, in the light of his enforced break from competition. The Tour of Beijing could end up being another option, although that too remains to be determined.

VN: You will return to competition in the Canadian WorldTour races. How has your training been going?

MP: After the crash, I planned out when I could come back. I though that maybe the only option was to come back in the Italian races. But now I will be racing in Canada and it means that everything went according to plan, maybe a bit better than I expected.

I started training around the beginning of August…obviously the first three weeks was quite hard, to put in some decent riding. But in the last two weeks I have been working harder, with maybe less volume, to have a decent level where I can help the team in the races. I am not saying I am ready to go for a win, but I feel ready to start the races.

I think I am in a similar position to January, when you have to go to the Tour Down Under. You find stronger riders than you, but you use it as a preparation race. You have enough form to start and to do something in the race, but not to be in the front in the end.

VN: After Canada, do you know what you will do?

MP: I hope to maybe do the Tour of Beijing, but we will see. I think we will see after the two races in Canada. The form can only go better. The Canadian races will show the point of the situation, then I will do the Tour of Beijing, or just the last two races in Italy. Then I would like to do the Grand Prix des Nations [the Chrono des Nations – ed.] if it is possible; I will see if it is in my schedule. If I do Lombardy, I can plan for that also, or I can skip Lombardy and do Grand Prix des Nations.

It is a race I always love to do, and it can be a good goal to finish the season with it.

VN: Will you go to the world championships?

MP: About the worlds, it is still open. It is still an option. If I do it, I won’t have enough form to finish top ten or top 15. So it has to be clear. Going there in itself would be an accomplishment. It is only a matter of feeling confident enough to go there and [be willing to] get less than average results. I am trying to take the best of the training for this goal. I have been doing some tests, I have been increasing my power a little bit, better than expected as I said, but I am still far from what my potential is.

So, if I go there, I will under-perform. It is only a matter of deciding if I want to go there for that. It would be a good result just to be there, it would be an accomplishment, but I am still working on this and will make a decision at the last possible moment.

VN: Is that delay okay with the national selector Paolo Bettini?

MP: Yes, he told me he is doing to the selection around September 10th. We will talk in the next few days…before Canada I have to make a decision. I will do some tests on my bike and see what my potential might be there.

VN: On a completely different note, there’s been several articles recently where there’s been mention that you never received your prizemoney for winning the 2009 Tour of Ireland. The blogger Velocast got assurances from the race organiser Alan Rushton that the money would be paid in the near future; has anything changed since then?

MP: No, I haven’t got any news recently, despite the interviews that came out. I asked the team if we received the money. When I last got prizemoney [from other races – ed.], I asked if we got something from Ireland 2009 and they said no. I don’t have any other news from anybody so far.

I think it will be difficult because the race disappeared. I didn’t get anything. It is something that should never happened. That said, I do understand the problem that Ireland goes through [recession – ed.]

Moving to the BMC Racing Team:

Pinotti is one of several well known riders who is transferring to the American BMC Racing Team next year. He joins world champion Thor Hushovd and Classics king Philippe Gilbert in doing so, along with current team-mate Tejay Van Garderen. With riders like Tour de France champion Cadel Evans and up-and-coming American Taylor Phinney already on board, the squad will undoubtedly be one of the very strongest in the sport.

However the question is how it will all gel together. Hushovd was known to be frustrated this year as he felt that he didn’t get enough personal opportunities while at Garmin-Cervélo. He will want to ensure that when racing with riders such as Gilbert, who has similar characteristics, doesn’t once again see him playing second fiddle.

Pinotti spoke about the dynamic of the team and how he thought it could handle the complex situation well.

VN: The BMC Racing Team has many big names – do you expect it to be dominant next year?

MP: Well, this year it was already a strong team in the Classics without having the big win. Now Gilbert came in Hushovd came in, so for sure it will be the team to watch out for in the Classics. In the stage races, I think we will have a really, good balanced team with Cadel Evans as the road captain in the races he will be in.

I think he will try to peak again for the Tour like he did this year. I believe we will have a very well balanced team for the stage races and I think everyone will have their own opportunity in the calendar.

A really balanced team can cover every type of races. The only missing thing is we don’t have a pure sprinter, but I think that is good if you are going for the GC in the Tour de France as you waste a lot of energy to set up the sprint.

The team showed this year that they went just for GC and they won. Every team that has a podium contender doesn’t have a pure sprinter. Thor is not just a sprinter. If you have a podium contender, you need all the men to help the route captain.

VN: If Cavendish does go to Sky, how would that work with Wiggins?

MP: Well, a sprinter is really helpful to take off the pressure in the beginning. It is a huge thing as they take the pressure off the team. But you can’t have everything.

I do think Cavendish and Wiggins can work together, because Cav is not only a sprinter. He can time trial well in the team time trial. I think he can up the level of every team mate when they race together. He has a good role as a team mate. If he goes with Wiggins to try to win the Tour, he won’t have the full team behind him. But I think he would be the first one also to help Wiggins when he needs him.

Bidding farewell to a superteam:

Marco PinottiVN: There was a surprising announcement last month that HTC Highroad would not continue. The sponsor search appeared destined to be successful around the end of the Tour de France, where Bob Stapleton sounded optimistic about the options and possibilities he had. However to the surprise of many, he confirmed last month that the team couldn’t raise enough money to keep going.

How did you react to that?

MP: My reaction was the same as everyone else. I was not shocked, but a bit surprised and disappointed on what was the outcome of the sponsor search. Being successful and then not being able to find the money to run the team is a little bit disappointing. We knew it wasn’t easy because the team has been working on this for more than one year. The fact that everyone was delayed until the last moment was not a good sign

VN: Why do you think it happened?

My idea is that the state of the economy in this time certainly didn’t help. After that, I don’t know. I am not so sure that other teams have found sponsors so easily…there is talk of merging [note – this portion of the interview came prior to this week’s announcement of a Leopard-Trek/Radioshack amalgamation – ed]. In HTC, you have a really good team, backed by people who are passionate about the sport and are wealthy. It [sponsoring the team] is not really a decision made on business grounds, because cycling is cheap and an effective way to improve as a marketing tool.

It is necessary to make people understand how cycling is a good tool for a company to get to develop the brand. Anyway, I don’t know…maybe we have to find a different way of attracting sponsorship. I know the competition is high with the other sports, and even in cycling there is competition in finding sponsorship. It is like racing a race.

But I do think the state of the economy didn’t help. In 2007, when Discovery Channel pulled out, they couldn’t find a new backer. And the economy was still expanding then. Right now, the economy is worse. If you think about what happened with Discovery Channel, you don’t have to be so surprised.

TV revenue and ProTeam points system:

One of the most debated topics in recent months was the stated need of teams to increase their income. The demise of HTC Highroad shows that the system isn’t a stable one at present, and so too does that collaboration between Leopard Trek and RadioShack. If all was good in the sport, there’d be little reason for such changes to occur.

Pinotti believes that open debate is lacking and that the stakeholders should have talks about a better way forward.

VN: AIGCP President Jonathan Vaughers has been saying that the teams should have a share of the TV revenue. Do you think there should be more equal sharing of money in the sport?

MP: Well, for sure we have to talk about it…there has to be more stability. If the TV rights create more stability, then we have to talk about that. I don’t know if there is room for discussion, or if there is money for everyone, the organiser and the teams, but the team has to try to find something that makes them able to survive regardless of the sponsorship.

So TV rights and other marketing tools are something they are constantly thinking about. Anyway, I agree with what Jonathan said. Also, in the selection of UCI ProTeams, there has to be more stability. I know it would cause some trouble [to adapt] as that means we have to change the way of organising or of thinking. But it is also a way of making this world more professional.

VN: He said he believes that the licences should also be running for longer…

MP: Yes. I agree with him. With the ProTour, you initially knew for five years which races you were going into. Now the points system is back like it was in the 90s, but in my opinion there should be a mixture of the points system and other parameters to keep the licence for more years.

If you rely only on the points system, one year you can be first and the other year you can be last if you don’t have the money to keep the riders.

VN: Some people also suggest that the points system can encourage riders to break the rules [taking banned products –ed.], that there is too much pressure on them.

MP: Yes, I don’t know how much, but I think it increases the pressure. I haven’t sensed that this year, but when I was racing before the ProTour, there was that pressure on the team. Okay, if you have strong riders and are in the top, it doesn’t matter if you are first or tenth, but for the teams who are around 15th or 16th position, if having one hundred points means doing the Tour or not, then that increases the pressure.

It all has to be discussed, keeping in mind all the positives and negatives. Personally, I don’t agree with a system based only on points. Maybe they also have to look at developing new riders, having under 23 teams…I don’t know. If you have young riders, if you invest money in scouting young riders, then you don’t have the money to keep the riders. Then you lost all the points.

Maybe it should be that half the points stay with the team and half go with the riders [if they move]. I don’t know if that is the solution, I am just thinking about it, but I just feel a discussion has to be in place.

One last campaign before changing jerseys:

Depending on which races he does, the season will likely end in just over a month for Pinotti. He’s worked very hard to be able to come back for what is a relatively small number of races, but told VeloNation that he wouldn’t miss it for the world. Friendly, humble and a hard worker, Pinotti has a close relationship with his team-mates and has plenty of good memories with them. The chance to build some more was too important to pass up.

VN: What are your thoughts on returning to racing, particularly as there’s just a few weeks before the HTC Highroad team ends?

MP: Well, that is one of the reasons why I wanted to come back. People said I could just take it easy, just focus on 2012, but one of the reasons I wanted to return and do as many races as possible this season is that I know I will miss the team tremendously. So I would like to enjoy the moments there are left in races with my team-mates, spending a little bit of time with the team to enjoy the moment.

It will be emotional, but that is one of the reasons to be here. I didn’t want to leave the team with the crash, to never wear the HTC jersey in a race again.

VN: It will be a hard moment to stop, but moving to a big team next year should be an exciting project for you. Presumably it must be good to have a new challenge, a new experience at your age – that can also be very good for the motivation.

MP: Yes, in the end HTC had to stop, but I found a good solution in terms of where I will go. As you say, every time you change you find new motivation. When you have to do this job, you should always be excited to try new experiences…


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