Mixed feelings for Pinot and Péraud on 2015 Tour de France route

Parcours offers young climber another chance to shine

A rather auspicious article appeared in L'Équipe ahead of the Tour de Franceroute presentation on Wednesday morning, as Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), Romain Bardet and Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) were asked to design their ideal parcours.

Pinot naturally sprinkled a healthy smattering of climbs throughout his course, including La Planche des Belles Filles and a summit finish at the Col de la Bonnette, but he also each dutifully added a healthy quota of time trialling miles, as if by habit rather than by choice.

When the curtain was raised on the 2015 Tour route shortly after midday, however, Pinot discovered that reality had outstripped his dreams. There will be just one individual time trial on the parcours, the 14km opener in Utrecht, as well as a single, 25km team time trial at the end of the opening week. From there, it's a procession of mountaintop finishes on the road to Paris.

Reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali confessed surprise but not dismay at the relative lack of time trialling, concluding that it was "maybe a bit for the French riders." The absent Chris Froome was more alarmist in his reaction, suggesting on his own website that he might eschew the Tour in favour of the Giro d'Italia and its set-piece 60km individual time trial in Treviso.

Pinot's reaction was, understandably, rather more favourable. "For the climbers it's better to have a course like this, without a real time trial," he said. "There's plenty there for me, with the two difficult stages in the Pyrenees and then the Alps, with Alpe-d'Huez at the end."

At this juncture, the greatest obstacle standing before Pinot seems the potentially treacherous opening week, which features another blast over the cobbles on the road to Cambrai, as well as a series of potentially windswept stages along the North Sea and English Channel coasts as the Tour winds from Utrecht across to Brittany.

Pinot was happy to tackle the 25km team time trial to Plumelec, although he warned that its unusual position at the end of the first week means that teams risk lining up at the start with depleted line-ups.

"It's a heavy first week, you'll have to pay attention every day or you'll lose time," Pinot said. "The cobbled stage is the first key one, but there'll be a lot of dangerous days with the wind too. You could get to the team time trial down two or three riders because of crashes, but I can make it there unscathed, I could have something good in Paris."

Third overall in 2014, Pinot said that he would gladly settle for the same position again next July. "To do as well again would already be super, I'd sign for that right now," he said. "For now I still feel below Froome, Contador and Nibali. It's a Tour that suits me, but I'll need to pay attention from the start, as I saw in 2013 [when he was distanced on the descent of the Pailhères –ed.]"

Bardet, too, was pleased with the shape of the 2015 Tour. His dream parcours for L'Équipe had included the finales of Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on successive days and a minimum of time trialling. The cobbles duly make a return next year, while the punchy finales at Mur de Huy and Mur de Bretagne should also suit Bardet's attacking instincts.

"I'm very enthusiastic. I don't know all of the finishes, like La Pierre-Saint-Martin and Pra-Loup, so I'll need to do some reconnaissance," he said. "On the other hand, the stage I'm worried about the most isn't the cobbled one, it's the stage to the Polders at Zeeland on the second day, because of the wind."


Tour director Christian Prudhomme's joking use of the slang expression "swag" to describe the unusual nature of the 2015 route inadvertently underlined just how much it appears to suit the two young French stars of this year's race.

The highest-placed Frenchman in Paris, however, was from another generation, even if it should be noted that the 37-year-old Jean-Christophe Péraud has been a professional on the road for only the same amount of time as Pinot. Péraud admitted that he would have preferred some more time trialling on the menu.

"I'm not especially pleased that there's no real time trial," Péraud said. "I'd have liked one to help up make up my deficit to the pure climbers. There's a time trial at the start but it shouldn't make a big difference, and the majority of the race is given over to climbing."

Péraud did, however, better Pinot at both Risoul and Pla d'Adet in 2014 and his Ag2r-La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu reckoned that he was selling himself short. "Jean-Christophe has always been really more of a climber than a time triallist, even if he is very, very good against the watch compared to some of the pure climbers," he told Cyclingnews. "The most dangerous part of the Tour for him is the opening week, with the possibility of a lot of echelons and splits, but we'll have a strong team."

Péraud agreed with his manager's assessment. "With the crosswinds and the pavé, it's a first week where you could lose the tour, but it's true that the two weeks that follow are more for the climbers," he said, before politely downplaying the prospect of repeating his surprise second place finish of 2014. "It will be complicated. An exploit like that would be difficult to repeat every year."

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