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After he saw his yellow jersey hopes dashed on stage 8 of the Tour de France, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was frank about his disappointment in post-race comments on Saturday.
“I just want to apologize to my teammates, because it’s a lot of failures for everyone: for the team, for me,” Pinot said, according to L’Equipe, following a stage in which he crossed the line nearly 19 minutes down on the yellow jersey group after being dropped on the Port de Balès.
“Today is maybe a turning point in my career, it’s too many failures for me. I always say that cycling is about fighting and having fun.”
The 2020 Tour de France got off to a rough start for the 30-year-old Frenchman, who abandoned last year’s race in the third week after looking like a bona fide potential yellow jersey winner. Although he seemed to be in good shape in the run-up to this year’s Tour, Pinot pulled out of the French national championships just before the Tour citing back pain and then went down in a crash on the very first stage. He did not lose time in the fall but did express concern that he had injured his back.
That was all too apparent on Saturday as Pinot began to drift backward on the Port de Balès, looking uncomfortable on the bike and intermittently putting his hand on his back. Groupama dropped riders back to try to help after Pinot lost touch, but within a matter of minutes it was clear that his Tour GC challenge was over yet again.
“I clung to encouraging signs, but it was a hassle since Saturday [stage 1]. My back hurts so much that I have no strength, I cannot pedal,” Pinot said. “I am not going to leave the Tour, I never considered it, but it is a difficult day.”
Pinot said that he would continue on as his team shifts focus, “crossing our fingers to win stages,” and the squad does have a collection of strong riders that could challenge for stage wins now that they no longer have to focus on supporting Pinot.
That said, Pinot’s abrupt departure from the yellow jersey battle yet again will be a tough pill to swallow for French fans on what was a bittersweet day on the whole for the home crowd.
France’s Nans Peters rode to the stage victory out of the breakaway and his Ag2r-La Mondiale teammate Romain Bardet looked good in the finale, but both Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) now find themselves out of GC contention altogether after both starting the stage within 15 seconds of yellow.