The reaction was delivered hot when the 8e step. Between Thibaut Pinot and the Tour de France, there was disenchantment in the air, even renunciation, this September 5, 2020. “Today, it may be a turning point in my career, it’s too many failures for me”, whispered the Frenchman at the Eurosport microphone. The sore back, the Groupama-FDJ rider had just experienced an ordeal on the climb to the Port of Balès, leaving his dreams of a yellow jersey on the side of the Pyrenean roads with a delay of eighteen minutes.
This turning point, the climber of Mélisey (Haute-Saône) took it for the 2021 season. During the presentation of his team, Tuesday, January 19, Thibaut Pinot announced that he wanted to focus his year on the Giro and to ignore the Tour de France (June 26-July 18). As in 2018.
“My goal will be the Tour of Italy, I will prepare myself to be 100% in this race. This is a carefully considered decision. For me, it was time to return to the Giro », says the 30-year-old runner, who promises to “Come back in 2022” on the Grande Boucle.
The first part of Thibaut Pinot’s 2021 season will be devoted to a very big goal: the Giro 🇮🇹 https://t.co/TAGQBwNrC7
Between attraction and repulsion
Pinot has always had ambivalent relationships, between attraction and repulsion, with his National Tour. He was revealed there in 2012 (stage victory and 10e place overall) and had his only podium on a grand tour two years later (3e). But he also accumulated withdrawals, four in all, so that of 2019 while competing in the mountains with the future winner, the Colombian Egan Bernal. “She left as she had come”, he confided to The team a little after about this mysterious muscular lesion in the left thigh which had taken its toll on his hopes.
On the evening of this new disappointment, his general manager, Marc Madiot, had found the words and the tone to convince him not to put away his dream of a yellow jersey, to persist again. Against fate. Pinot had performed and prepared for the following months. It was before falling from the first stage of the 2020 edition, upon arrival on a Promenade des Anglais, in Nice, transformed into a footbath by a late summer storm.
The rest was a three-week ordeal (29e almost two hours from the winner, the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar) whom the cyclist refused to cut short to at least enjoy the pleasure of a time trial almost set in his garden in Mélisey on the eve of the finish.
Place for Arnaud Démare
So, for this new season, the Franc-Comtois has again given in to the temptation of Italy as in 2017 and 2018. This choice is as much dictated by his love of the Giro, his more unbridled scenarios, this less stifling pressure , that by a Tour 2021 whose route is not mountainous enough for its taste: “It was not the right course for me”, he said. That of the Giro (which is due to start on May 8 from Sicily) is perhaps still in the boxes of the organizer RCS, but Pinot believes it is better suited for him from what he knows. ” on the main lines “.
Internally, this Giro option responded to another logic: favor the Arnaud Démare card in July. Absent from a team serving Pinot in 2019 and 2020, the sprinter had no intention of watching the Tour from the sofa of his home in Picardy for a third time. With fourteen victories last season, Démare was the most prolific rider of the whole peloton and the purveyor of two thirds of the successes of Groupama-FDJ (21). So his time had come.
David Gaudu’s luck
The desires of Giro de Pinot fell rather well in this context for Marc Madiot. They will also allow the great house hopeful, David Gaudu (24) to establish himself as a protected rider to achieve the best possible general classification and confirm the promises made as the first Pinot Sherpa, or in the last Tour of Spain (8e and winner of two stages).
Freed from the weight of finally succeeding Bernard Hinault on the Tour’s list after 36 years of waiting, Thibaut Pinot hopes to return to victory on Italian roads, he who has tattooed on the wrist and in Dante’s language. “Solo la vittoria e bella” (only victory is beautiful). Fourth in 2017, on the verge of stepping on the podium the following year before having to give up on the eve of the finish due to pneumonia, the winner of the Tour of Lombardy in 2018 would be able to rally Milan with the jersey pink. An unprecedented image for a Frenchman, since Laurent Fignon in 1989.