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by Shane Stokes
August 27, 2014
The teams of both Thibaut Pinot and Peter Sagan have commented on the disappointing performances of both riders thus far in the Vuelta a España, with each squad confirming that neither rider is in the same kind of form that the showed in this year’s Tour de France.
Pinot had a career-best performance in the Tour, netting third overall in Paris and also taking the white jersey of best young rider. He was sitting second overall until the final time trial and, still being just 24 years of age, showed that he can aim for the overall victory in future years.
However the Frenchman’s Vuelta has been a disappointment thus far. He was 181st in the first road stage, then 162nd on Monday and 171st on Tuesday. His overall classification position starting Wednesday’s stage five was a lowly 177th out of 198 overall; after four days of racing, he was already 24 minutes and 15 seconds back.
So what happened to the rider who was on the podium in July?
“He’s not performing at the same level as in the Tour de France because he took it easy after the Tour,” explained his FDJ directeur sportif Franck Pineau. “He got a bit sick before the Vuelta and he suffers the heat here.”
Indeed Pinot complained about the temperatures and their effect on him at the end of stage four. “I’ve had the worst day of my life,” he said, arriving at the team bus.
The Frenchman did however say prior to the race that he was not taking it as seriously as the Tour, perhaps recognising that he hadn’t done the necessary work in the weeks since the French race finished.
Pineau dismissed any notion that the team is frustrated with him. “We don’t worry at all. He’s here to win a stage towards the end of the race. He also says he want to help Kenny Elissonde.”
As for Sagan, he is also similarly anonymous. He too has been seen more often near the back of the peloton than near the front, and appears to be far from the rider who took his third points jersey plus 11 top-ten stage placings in the Tour.
While his Cannondale squad was second in the opening day team time trial in the Vuelta, he was just 46th in the bunch gallop which settled stage two and has placed 129th and 138th on the two stages since then.
“Peter Sagan is not in good form,” conceded his directeur sportif Dario Mariuzzo. “He has stopped cycling after the Tour.”
The Slovakian recently confirmed that he would move to the Tinkoff Saxo team for 2015, a deal which is expected to see him earn a very large salary. Mariuzzo referred to this in explaining why the rider is not more prominent.
“Why would he try to shine here? He’s already got his contract for next year.”
He suggested that the rider still had expectations for the current season, though. “He’s here with no pressure but only to prepare for the world championship.”
The road race in Ponferrada, Spain, is on a tough course which could suit Sagan. However his level will have to be considerably higher than it is now, particularly with other strong riders taking the Vuelta seriously from day one.