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Giro d’Italia stage one analysis: Perfect result for the perfect athlete

Marco Pinotti pulled on the first pink jersey of the 2011 Giro after HTC won the stage one team time trial. A small win for a popular individual. A huge win for ethical sport.

Words by Edward Pickering

Cycling is described as a team sport for individuals. So it was fitting that the first maglia rosa of the 2011 Giro d’Italia was Marco Pinotti, a consummate rider described by his team management as “the perfect athlete”.

Pinotti’s HTC-Highroad team is more known for its ability to launch Mark Cavendish into winning sprints. We’ve grown used to the sight of nine HTC riders on the front of the Tour de France bunch, all sacrificing everything in order that one man may win.

So when Pinotti was ushered forward alone for the final metres of the stage one team time trial, with HTC well ahead of the next-fastest time, it was the team’s way of paying back a loyal individual for his efforts.

But it was more than that. HTC’s riders made a big statement by selecting Pinotti to wear the pink jersey. Pinotti is one of the few athletes at the very top of the sport who is willing to speak strongly, consistently and convincingly for ethical cycling.

A year and a half ago, we were tipped off about Pinotti’s principled attitude to cycling, and Alasdair Fotheringham interviewed him for the April 2010 edition of Cycle Sport, producing a feature which every young cyclist and athlete should print out and treat as a manifesto for their career. Pinotti understood profoundly the reasons why so many people are appalled by doping in sport, and he argued eloquently about the value of sporting achievement.

“Put simply, using banned substances is the shortest way to achieving what you want at a higher level. The only problem is, apart from being an excuse not to train and being illegal, it takes away the value of everything you succeed in doing,” he said.

In a Giro which is being run off under the shadow of its favourite – Alberto Contador – facing a possible ban for a positive test given in the 2010 Tour, Pinotti’s position at the head of the general classification is an elegant riposte to the cheats.

The first recipient of the 2011 Giro d’Italia’s maglia rosa is a shining beacon for ethical sport. Let’s hope that the last one, in three weeks’ time, is as well.

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