It is a measure of Thibaut Pinot’s growing confidence as a time triallist that the FDJ leader admitted to a slight degree of disappointment after he finished second behind French TT champion Jérôme Coppel (IAM Cycling) in the 11.9-kilometre time trial that decided the Etoile de Bessèges. Finishing runner-up on the day moved Pinot up to third in the general classification, behind overall winner Coppel and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal).
The time trial in Alès followed the banks for the River Gardon for nine kilometres, before climbing the Côte de l’Ermitage above the town, which averages 10 per cent for three kilometres.
“Honestly, even though it’s not my speciality, I was aiming for victory today, as the final ‘wall’ up to the finish did favour me. Unfortunately, I came up against a great Coppel,” Pinot told L’Équipe.
“But the most important thing is to take note of the fact that my form is there,” added Pinot, who also finished second in the GP Marseillaise immediately prior to the five-day Bessèges race.
“I’ve no need to ask any questions of myself. I simply wanted to get my season off and running in a good way. I will need to keep this rhythm going until Tirreno-Adriatico, which will be the first big test.”
Equipped with Lapierre’s new Aerostorm DRS TT machine, the French climber came into this season talking up his time trial ambitions. Pinot hopes to gain selection for the Olympic time trial in Rio de Janeiro, which takes place on a hilly course that should suit him. He also believes his burgeoning ability against the clock will boost his hopes of contending for the Tour de France title.
Sylvain Chavanel, who had marked his return to racing with team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau at Direct Energie with a stage win that made him the leader going into the time trial, was another disappointed man as he fell back to fourth on GC.
“Time trials early on in the season don’t really suit me. But I need to focus on the fact that I did manage to win a stage and that the team had a very good week,” said Chavanel, whose young teammate Bryan Coquard took two wins in bunch sprints.