Thibaut Pinot won’t be racing the Tour de France in 2021. The 30-year-old Frenchman confirmed at the Groupama-FDJ team presentation on Tuesday that he will be targeting this year’s Giro d’Italia.
“It wasn’t the right route for me this year on the Tour,” Pinot said according to the AFP. “I will come back to it, I hope, as soon as 2022.”
Pinot’s decision, which had already been rumored in media reports, comes after a challenging past few years for Pinot at his home Grand Tour. Having finished as highly as third overall in the race (back in 2014), Pinot seemed to be stronger contender for yellow in 2019 than he’d ever been, before a leg injury knocked him out of the race in the final week. Coming into the 2020 Tour off a second overall finish at the Critérium du Dauphiné, he again looked like a strong contender, but crashed on the first day of the Tour, injuring his back, and he would not be a factor in the overall battle over the ensuing three weeks.
This year, he will avoid the Tour altogether, instead opting to make his third career start at the Giro. Pinot has finished as highly as fourth in the race, back in 2017, when Tom Dumoulin won a close GC battle. Pinot finish behind Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali but just 1:17 back.
In addition to being a change of pace after Pinot’s frustrating recent Tour campaigns, the 2021 Giro may also feature a route more favorable to the high mountain specialists.
At the team presentation, Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Mdaiot praised Pinot’s resolve.
“There’s something that a lot of riders don’t have, there’s commitment,” Madiot said. “He doesn’t necessarily always have the words to say it or to express it, but he has something that many don’t have, that something he gives, puts it in his action on the bike. Just for that, we have to be with him. I don’t know if we’ll win the Giro d’Italia someday, I don’t know if we’ll win the Tour de France someday, but one thing I’m sure is that he will try to do it. And as long as he has a bib on his back, he will have the means to do so.”
With Pinot focused on the Giro, Groupama-FDJ will instead look to Arnaud Démare and David Gaudu as leaders for the Tour. A two-time Tour stage winner, Démare rode to four wins and the points jersey at last year’s Giro. Gaudu, meanwhile, enjoyed a breakthrough performance at his most recent Grand Tour appearance, riding to two stage wins and eighth overall at the Vuelta a España.