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He didn’t get the stage win he hoped for on Sunday, but Thibaut Pinot believes again.
Dogged by injury following a crash in the 2020 Tour, hit by Covid following the Tour de Suisse, having some tumbles in this year’s Tour and even getting an accidental thwack to the face from a soigneur during stage 8, Pinot had a tough start to his year’s Tour de France.
Misfortune on camera aside, he was practically anonymous for the first eight stages, with 31st on stage 7 his best showing until then. However his flair reignited on Sunday’s stage to Châtel les Portes du Soleil.
Pinot put in a customary swashbuckling display, taking chunks out of Bob Jungel’s two and a half minute lead in a frenzied pursuit and whittling that advantage down to 20 seconds before flatter roads in the final took the impetus out of his chase.
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Still, even if things didn’t work out, his confidence and morale are on the rise again.
“It reassures me on my condition,” he said. “I see that I still lack a bit of energy but it’s a good sign that I’m getting better and better. In the second and third weeks, there are stages that suit me even better.”
Pinot is a rider who wears his heart on his sleeve and appears to be driven by his emotions. That’s part of the reason why he is a fan favorite; he’s the precise opposite of the robotic riders and teams which have been the subject of criticism and suspicion in the past.
Watch Pinot and his suffering is obvious. Even when he is going well, such as when he blazed to comeback stage wins in this year’s Tour of the Alps and Tour de Suisse, and you can see all the effort he’s putting into the sport.
People also love an underdog, and the highs and lows of his career have gained him considerable backing. Factor in his anti-doping statements plus his love of animals and it is easy to understand his popularity.
That’s why many were willing him on Sunday, even if Jungels has been through his own difficulties in recent years.
Reacting after the stage, Pinot said that the stage win would have been possible if he’d believed in himself a bit more and reacted a little sooner.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “If we had to do the race again, I would change a lot of things, but that’s racing…. Jungels was very strong. It’s obviously a shame, but we arrived 2 minutes 30 behind at the foot of a climb which suited him. It would have been different with a harder climb, but I have no regrets, I really gave it my all.
“I understood at the top of the Pas de Morgins that it was going to be complicated because he was still going well on the rolling parts. The finale was to his advantage. If I had known I was going well, I might have attacked earlier on the climb.”
Still, his form is on the up and so too his determination. His supporters are anticipating more fireworks and he sounds ready to deliver.
“I’m still happy to find good feelings again and to have the legs to fight. It allows me to be quite serene for the future.
“The two most beautiful weeks are coming.”