Thibaut Pinot is (nearly) back

Pinot came close to winning his first race in 1,006 days at the Tour of the Alps.

by Jonny Long

photography by Getty Images

All good superheroes possess the quality of turning up just in the nick of time. In the eyes of Thibaut Pinot, however, Miguel Ángel ‘Superman’ López couldn’t have shown up at a worse possible moment.

The Frenchman has had a tough time since being forced out of the 2019 Tour de France while on the cusp of potential glory, persistent injury blighting his next couple of seasons. But there are signs in 2022 that Thibaut Pinot could be back.

Pinot has enjoyed a solid block of racing so far this year. He notched his first podium in two years at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, followed by a top 10 overall at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Now, at the ongoing Tour of the Alps, Pinot allowed himself to lose time in the general classification before getting into the break on stage four. Having spent all day out front, he arrived at the bottom of the final climb with around 10 km remaining and seized his chance, attacking and going off alone.

Pinot battled against the gradient, harbouring a lead of 45 seconds as the GC group got organised behind, Ineos Grenadiers threatening to upset the French once more as they drove the pace uphill.

Pinot began to drift backward, the cycling world willing him to hold on and take his first victory in 1,006 days since that Tour stage on the Tourmalet in 2019.

But then, López launched from the GC group, the Colombian powering away up the road. Soon, he had caught Pinot, who had slowed to try and tack onto the back and save some energy for the sprint. López sailed right past though, leaving Pinot in his wake, and the wait for the Groupama-FDJ rider to return to winning ways continues.

“It would have been lovely to win, ah….in the last couple of kilometres I was thinking of the last few years that have passed, I’m really disappointed,” Pinot said after the stage, clearly gutted.

“I’m pissed off because it would have done me good…if I’d been at my best level no one would have caught me…”

“Yeah, I feel much better now,” he answered when asked if he’s back. “Ah, we’ll have to see tomorrow. Today has obviously been difficult.”

So, second place for a pissed-off Pinot, seven seconds off a comeback victory. Let’s hope that stokes the fires for him to climb back up to his previous best level. Behind him in third, however, was another Frenchman who has also taken the long road back.

Sprinting to mop up the final bonus seconds and close the gap to just two seconds behind overall leader Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) was DSM’s Romain Bardet. At the upcoming Giro d’Italia, the scrawny climber could prove to be a dark horse. After that, the Tour beckons for both Pinot and Bardet, where all of cycling would celebrate a stage win.

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