It was way back in 1999 when Marco Pinotti signed his first pro contract, with Lampre Daikin.
The Italian team is still with us – and so is the time trial specialist from Bergamo.
To use the clichéd comparison with wine, the 36 year-old gets better as every season passes.
Last season was no exception; strong rides in Oman, Tirreno and Romandie were a precursor to his leading the storming HTC squadra across the line in the Giro’s first stage TTT in Turin and grabbing the second pink jersey of his career.
He narrowly missed victory on his ‘home’ stage 18 but on stage 19 disaster struck and, along with team mate, Craig Lewis, he ended up in hospital.
Pinotti had a fractured hip and would face months off the bike.
To add further dismay to his year, HTC announced they could not continue and thus Pinotti was looking for a job.
However he bounced back from both issues.
His injury problems were put behind him and 2012 sees him in action in the red and black of the ‘super squad’ BMC Racing Team.
Pinotti first came to prominence with a silver medal in the European U23 time trial championship in 1998 and that year he rode one late season race as a stagiaire for Polti – but it was Lampre who signed him for season 1999.
Neo-pro or not, he was thrown straight into the Tour de France, the experience can’t have done him too much harm – by the end of the season he’d won the now defunct GP d’Europa ‘two up’ team time trial with Latvian strong man, Raivis Belohvosciks.
The pair took second in the same race the following year and Pinotti paired with Swiss rider Rubens Bertogliati to occupy the same position in the Duo Normand.
But an ’en ligne’ stage win in the Tour of Poland that year proved that Pinotti wasn’t just a ‘chrono man.’
In 2001 he rode the Tour and Vuelta and lined up again for the Tour in 2002 but was a non-finisher.
The following year he took a stage in the Tour of the Basque Country with 2004 seeing him on the podium of the Italian time trial championship with a bronze medal.
Saunier Duval became home for 2005 and this coincided with the start of his love affairs with the Giro – where he finished 48th – and the Italian time trial champion’s jersey, which he pulled on for the first time.
The 2006 Giro saw him 60th overall in the Giro but ‘mountain man’ Marzio Bruseghin proved too strong in the Italian time trial championship and it was silver for Pinotti.
T-Mobile Team was the name on the jersey for 2007 and his progression continued with a Giro top 20 on GC and four days in the pink jersey.
He took back his Italian time trial champion’s jersey and had strong rides in the Tours of Romandie, Denmark and Poland.
T-Mobile became High Road for 2008, and as well as retaining the red white and green jersey in the chrono, he took the final TT stage of the Giro (95th on GC), placed third in the Tour of Romandie and won overall in the Tour of Ireland.
More wins were on the way in 2009 when, with Columbia on board as title sponsor, he picked up a stage in the Basque Country, team time trials in the Tour of Romandie and Giro (40th on GC), the Italian time trial championship and the GP Citta di Stresa chrono.
The jersey colours changed for the 2010 season when HTC took over, and he once again brought big value to his sponsors. He rode strongly in Oman, the Basque Country, won the prologue in Romandie and missed victory in the Giro’s final TT by a scant two seconds to Gustav Larsson.
This was Pinotti’s strongest Giro ever, finishing 9th on GC.
It almost goes without saying that he won the Italian time trial championship for the fifth time – a title he had to abdicate to Lampre’s Adriano Malori in 2011 due to his Giro crash injuries.
And to prove without doubt that last year’s bitter/sweet season is well behind him, Pinotti charged to victory in the 2012 Giro’s closing time trial around Milano, putting 39 seconds into Geraint Thomas and 53 into Jesse Sergent.
VeloVeritas gave him a few days to recover from his exertions then rang him at home for his thoughts on the race where, ‘tutto il rosa della vita’ – everything in life is pink.
You left the Giro under bad circumstances in 2011, Marco – but this year’s exit was perfect.
“Yes, a lot better!
“It was already a success just for me to finish the Giro, but victory in the time trial was special, I’m back to feeling like I did before the crash.”
I believe the final chrono percorso was more technical than first imagined?
“Yes, there were many corners; I only got to see them once on the bike during my ride over the course in the morning – but I was in the team car behind Taylor Phinney for his ride and that was helpful, it gave me a clearer picture.
“In a big city it’s always going to be technical with tram lines, cobbles, road works and oil on the surface.”
You won by a good margin.
“Yes, I rode it looking all the time at my power output – I was saying to the guys at the start that to win I would have to generate the same power as I did when I won the last stage of the Giro in 2008.
“But despite the course being more technical, I actually produced 10/12 watts more, this year.
“Geraint Thomas is strong, but that course was a little long for him, he’s better over the shorter distances.”
When did you decide not to ride for GC and to concentrate on the final TT?
“It was always a goal; I was going to ride for the win in the time trial regardless of my GC position.
“But the choice was taken away from me during the last week in the mountains, which was very difficult – it wasn’t a voluntary choice!
“We had better placed riders than me – Tschopp for example – and I rode to help him in the last week.”
What was your lead-in to the time trial like?
“I was lucky, I travelled down from the Stelvio by helicopter; I had my massage, dinner and was in bed by 11:00 pm.
“I was up early, had a good breakfast at 08:00 and we left to go the course at 09:30.
“The helicopter transfer made a big difference, my team mates who came down by bus were just getting to their room at 11:30 pm.
“I felt a bit guilty that I’d had the benefit of the helicopter trip and it helped to motivate me – I had to show my team mates that it had been worthwhile.”
And you said you raced on power.
“Yes but ‘feel’ too – you have to be careful not to overcook it in the first part.
“As I said, I averaged 10 watts more than I did the last time I won the final TT in the Giro – 385 watts.
“That’s not huge, but my position is aero and I’m not heavy, I generate 5.7 watts/kilo which is what the strongest guys produce in the mountains – and what you need to win time trials.”
Which tubulars did you run?
“The team uses Continentals, we have one available which has less rolling resistance but I used my normal road tyres.
“I know what their limits are because I ride them every day and it’s a city circuit so best not to take chances to save a few hundredths of a second.”
Your position is very aero.
“I haven’t been in the wind tunnel this year, but we spent a lot of time at the training camp on that aspect – getting the optimum comfortable position for power and aerodynamics.
“But I’m lucky in that I’m naturally pretty aero on the bike.”
What does it take to be a good chrono man?
“You need the ability to develop good power for long periods of time.
“I’m not a sprinter, I’m not good at explosive efforts, but I can consistently generate good power for longer periods of time.
“You also have to develop the mental focus and have attention to detail about preparation and equipment.
“I’m constantly refining things like how I warm up so as I can continue to develop.”
What’d your opinion on the Giro percorso, this year?
“Last year was a very hard race; it was virtually over as a competition for the GC by half way.
“This year it was much more open until the end.
“It was more balanced and those riding for GC couldn’t afford any crazy attacks – if you went, then five or six teams were going to chase you down.
“There was a lot of looking at each other in that very hard last week – it wasn’t down to attacking, it was down to survival.”
How’s your post race recovery going?
“The first week after the Giro, I had to go to Rome regarding pre-Olympic discussions with the Federation.
“And I was working with my osteopath on the after effects of the crash.
“I’ve been continuing to ride my bike, easy – complete rest is not good; the body begins to shut down.”
What’s your programme, now?
“I’ve decided not to ride the Tour de Suisse – I’m going to have two weeks active recovery and then it’ll be the Tours of Austria and Poland.”
There’s been a lot of polemic about your Olympic time trial place?
“I don’t know if I’ll be going yet, that decision is down the head coach.
“I’ll have to earn my spot in the road team if I’m to ride the time trial – the TT rider has to come from the riders who compete in the road race.
“I have to fit in with the team’s road strategy – the Italian team’s focus is always on the road race at the Olympics.”
Result - Giro d'Italia 20102 Stage 21 ITT
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:39
3 Jesse Sergent (NZl) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:53
4 Alex Rasmussen (Den) Garmin – Barracuda 0:01:00
5 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:01:01
6 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Barracuda 0:01:09
7 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:01:14
8 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:01:15
9 Svein Tuft (Can) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:01:22
10 Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:01:23
11 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:24
12 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
13 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:01:25
14 Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:01:28
15 Nelson Oliveira (Por) RadioShack-Nissan 0:01:30
16 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:01:31
17 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Barracuda 0:01:36
18 Mikhail Ignatyev (Rus) Katusha Team 0:01:47
19 Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Androni Giocattoli 0:01:49
20 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Garmin – Barracuda 0:01:50
21 Fabio Felline (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:01:53
22 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:01:54
23 Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin – Barracuda
24 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
25 Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:01:55
26 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 0:01:56
27 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:01
28 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:06
29 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:10
30 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:11
31 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling
32 Jack Bauer (NZl) Garmin – Barracuda 0:02:12
33 Gatis Smukulis (Lat) Katusha Team
34 Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:13
35 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team
36 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:02:17
37 Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 0:02:19
38 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox 0:02:21
39 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto Belisol Team
40 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:02:25
41 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:26
42 Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team
43 Manuele Boaro (Ita) Team Saxo Bank
44 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:29
45 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:30
46 Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetApp 0:02:31
47 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox 0:02:32
48 Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:33
49 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:02:37
50 Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team 0:02:42
51 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:02:43
52 Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:02:45
53 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling
54 Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Astana Pro Team 0:02:46
55 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling
56 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Movistar Team 0:02:47
57 Martijn Keizer (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
58 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:02:49
59 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox 0:02:54
60 Marco Coledan (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox 0:02:56
61 Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox 0:02:5