VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — Marco Pinotti ended his UCI Road World Championships in a Maastricht hospital on Wednesday. The Italian was on a bronze-medal ride in the time trial, but crashed 16km from the end and fractured his collarbone.
“When you are fighting for the podium, it’s normal you are on the limit and taking all the space you can on the road,” Italy’s national sports director Paolo Bettini told VeloNews.
After going down hard on a wet left-hard corner midway through the race, Pinotti got back up to try to continue on, but it was hopeless. Bettini exited the Italian team car, put his hands on Pinotti’s cheeks and looked into his eyes.
“When I saw his face and I knew it was over,” said Bettini. “I told him, ‘Do what’s best for you.’”
Pinotti helped BMC Racing to a silver medal in the team time trial on Sunday. On the back of it and a fifth place at the Olympics, he was a favorite to race to a podium finish in the 45.7km test through the Limburg province.
Bettini was in constant contact with the Bergamo rider heading to the Olympics and onto the worlds. After the Games, he was convinced of Pinotti’s chances for a bronze medal.
“He showed in recent times that he came here in the right condition to fight for a podium spot, not ahead of Taylor Phinney and Tony Martin, but a bronze medal,” said Bettini. “It would’ve been great. That’s how it is, though.”
Pinotti knew he had a chance for bronze. Last night when he looked over the results sheet, he was disgusted. He expected Martin (Germany) and Phinney (USA) to be almost unbeatable, but Vasil Kiryienka? He believed that he was on target to challenge the Belarusian for the bronze medal.
At the first time check, Pinotti was 11th and at the second he was fifth. Kiryienka was fourth and fourth at the time checks. In other words, Pinotti seemed to be improving as the race approached the Cauberg finish. It would have been just as an exciting fight for the bronze medal as it was for the gold medal, where Martin just pipped Phinney’s time as the final rider out of the start house.
“Third place to Kiryienka?” Pinotti said, according to Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport. “No. I was already on his time and needed to only race another 20 minutes.”
Pinotti instead lost control of his bike as the road went from wet to dry and back to wet again. He crashed going 60kph and fractured his left collarbone.
“Yeah, it came in a spot that I didn’t think was dangerous. He got off kilter and tried to pull himself over,” BMC Racing general manager Jim Ochowicz said. “I don’t know what he did; normally he wouldn’t crash. He knows how to do this stuff.”
“The sport is cruel at certain times,” Pinotti added. “However, I was in control of my destiny. I knew what I needed to do. Besides, the hardest part was already over.”
Now, Pinotti is forced to miss his home race, the Giro di Lombardia and face a long winter. Today, he returns to Bergamo, where he may undergo surgery to ensure a quick return to training and the start of next season. As with Squadra Azzura, BMC Racing considers him an experienced hand and someone to guide its young stars Phinney and Tejay van Garderen.
The 36-year-old has been in harder situations. Last year at the Giro d’Italia, he crashed along with HTC-Highroad teammate Craig Lewis and fractured his pelvis. He came back to help Phinney defend the pink jersey and win the final stage of this year’s Giro. And yesterday, he almost took his first world championship medal. Instead, he finished the day in Maastricht, 13km from the podium he had hoped to land on instead of the tarmac.