The Interview: MARCO PINOTTI

Marco Pinotti is a Performance Coach at CCC Team. He is a former pro with an illustrious career and one of the best domestiques of his era. Marco became a pro in 1999 and rode for Lampre, Saunier Duval, HTC (in its many guises as T-Mobile, High Road, Columbia) and finally with Team BMC. He won the Tour of Ireland in 2008 and the Italian National Time Trial title and incredible six times. He finished the 2012 Olympics TT in 5th position and was on his way to the podium on the same year at the World individual time trial Championships in Limburg, when an unfortunate slip towards the end of the course took him out of contention. At the Giro d'Italia he wore the Maglia Rosa, the Pink Jersey of the overall leader, twice and won two individual stages and two team time trials.

When he finally retired as a cyclist, he was one of the most respected riders in the peloton, having always held a strong stance against doping and an enormous wealth of experience and expertise, which he then took with him for the coaching job at BMC, now CCC Team.

Marco's nickname, The Professor, was a nod to his university degree (very few pros have one) and the fact that his attention to detail is second to none and requires impeccable knowledge.

I began by asking him how he had found the transition from rider to coach...

Last time we met, in July 2013, you were a few days away from riding La Vuelta, your last Grand Tour of your career. You are now a Performance Coach at CCC, how has the transition been from rider to coach? It’s been great. I was lucky to be surrounded by great mentors and people with such great passion and knowledge to get me through the difficult part of the transition. Allan Peiper was a key factor in this as he knew me well from our T-Mobile days together.

I still feel part of the team but I miss the physical part of the job. As a rider your body is the main tool, now it’s all about the head and the ability to connect and build relationships, and being able to “read” and understand each person’s needs.

What is the best part of your job? Seeing predictions come true and help people to fulfil their expectations.

Do you miss life inside the peloton? Not really, I had my time and now I am fine without it. I miss the camaraderie between teammates. Only the suffering at a deep physical level creates that bond.

Do you still think it was the right time to quit as a rider when you did? Yes, I think it was, one year more would not have changed much, and in my first year as a coach I learned a lot more than I would have been able to get from another year on the bike. It wasn't easy, but that's the same for anyone who changes jobs.

Pinotti (left) preparing for the 2012 London Olympic road race

What is your most memorable moment? The most memorable moment that I carry with me is being part of the national team at the start line of the Olympic road race in London. I think it was the pinnacle of my career and a dream come true.

What would you change in your career as a rider? I would start training longer sooner. And for that I would move to a warmer place from the moment I turned pro. It’s something most people do now. On average, most riders train more and better now than twenty years ago, as they have higher support from their teams, especially in World Tour teams.

CCC Team have had a tough first season after transitioning from the BMC setup. With so many changes in the roster, it was expected. What are the vibes for 2020?

It was not easy to get results and we knew that. The World Tour is very competitive and if you lose some top or key riders in the roster, it’s not easy to replace them, so it's difficult to create the same winning formula. The riders we had did their best and they’ll learn a lot from this year's experience. You have to change and adapt with what you have. For 2020 the team is looking stronger but we are still on a progression. Other teams have gone stronger and made changes so it’ll still be a challenge.

Simon Geschke (left) and Szymon Sajnok (right)

Who is the rider who has impressed you the most at CCC? I was positively impressed by Simon Geschke. He had two crashes but fought hard to be back. He is always a hard worker. From the young riders, 22 year old sprinter Szymon Sajnok is progressing well. As a rider, your main role was the domestique and you were respected and loved for that. The demand for points and success is now greater and greater, especially as so many young talented riders can win so much so soon and the teams have a reduced roster in the races. How can the role evolve as not enough riders can or want to take their time to develop into experienced riders? It’s  been the usual problem for the “good average” rider, with no specific skills in one area that allows them to collect points. The evolution will come by itself. Initially, none have the patience to evolve but later you are sort of forced into that. Either they will understand or they won’t have a role anymore. Not everyone has the physical and mental skillset to achieve results. However, the leaders know that at times, on the road, the work of a good domestique is as important as being in good shape, so it will be requested and expected from both the Sports Directors and the leaders that some all rounders take up the role of protecting their star riders and pull them to save energy. There is always a need for experienced riders willing to sacrifice themselves for the team. We have seen it last year with Francisco Ventoso and Laurens Ten Dam. They were great in teaching young riders on and off the bike.

Italy seems to be producing many promising and some already successful time trialists. As a specialist and a former champion in time trials, do you think we will see an Italian World Champion any time soon?

I think Filippo Ganna has the potential to do it, but it depends on the competition and the course. (World Champion) Rohan Dennis, (European Champion) Remco Evenepoel and (Belgian Champion) Wout Van Aert won’t be easy to beat. Filippo just has to keep working hard and hope in some luck in terms of selection of courses and competitors. What are the three main sacrifices and the three best things about being a pro cyclist that you would say to someone who is dreaming and trying to become one? I would not call them sacrifices, but rather choices that you have to make. If they feel like sacrifices, then it’s a bad start:

  1. Be ready to stay away from home, that means invest in training in altitude location / warm places;

  2. Be patient and confident work will pay off and your time will come;

  3. Diet and off-the-bike lifestyle: your work is 24/7 and 365 days a year. Give your body the right food, the right rest. You need to be selfish about it.

Best things:

  1. The physical benefits of endurance training, some of those benefits you will carry them with you after your career;

  2. Travelling and visiting the world from the bike, the best point of view;

  3. The connection you get with people in this sport is priceless.

Have you ever thought about writing a training book? Not really, but that could be an idea! What are your hobbies away from cycling? I love reading anything but mostly books and on a variety of topics. I'm currently half way through “Range” by D.Epstein.

What's in the future for Marco Pinotti? To keep trying my best to help other people fulfil their goals, and improve the company I work for, whether as a coach or in different position.

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