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Stage 8 hero Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat)
Tour's youngest rider caps off impressive Grand Tour debut
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat), whom many see as this Tour de France's biggest revelation, has been able to save his top ten overall placing during Saturday's time trial in Chartres. Under pressure by AG2R's Nicolas Roche (11th overall at the start, trailing Pinot by 1:08) and especially RadioShack's Andreas Klöden (12th), the 22-year-old Frenchman did well enough not to lose his tenth place on the overall classification.
Pinot, the Tour's youngest rider and winner of stage eight, limited his losses on Klöden, and finished more than one minute in front of Roche, who may have been paying for his breakaway efforts on Friday's stage to Brive-la-Gaillarde. The top ten result was what Pinot had been aiming for going into the time trial, but it exceeded his pre-Tour expectations by far.
"This is a great satisfaction, it's just awesome," Pinot said at the finish. "We're going to Paris with two stage wins and this tenth placing, it's also super for the whole team."
With his teammate Pierrick Fédrigo having scored victory in stage 15, FDJ's outcome at this Tour is indeed more than satisfactory.
"I remained concentrated on my objective to stay in the top ten, and I was able to save my placing," Pinot continued. "It makes me quite proud of myself, as well as of my team - because without a team, you're nothing in cycling. They've protected me for three weeks and without them, this wouldn't have been possible."
Having been so successful, the future Grand Tour contender now hopes to be able to build on this result. His team manager Marc Madiot is convinced that Pinot can become a real champion in the next few years.
"He has the physical capacities and the mental strength for it. But he also has his weak points, and in this sense the Tour has been constructive, too," said Madiot, who has a reputation for growing new talent. "We have the ingredients to make up a beautiful team in the next two or three years. So the objective is to learn how to master everything."
Pinot himself is already eager to repeat his performances, even if he knows that a few talented young pro riders have already failed to do so, including in his native France. "Next year, I'll definitely try to do as well, or better," he added. "But the confirmation of a good result is always difficult. At the same time, Pierre Rolland has shown that it's possible [the Europcar rider, stage winner and best young rider in 2011, repeated his success this year by taking another victory and finishing eighth overall as best Frenchman - ed.].
"I'll continue the work with my coach Fred Grappe and my brother Julien, whom I also have to thank, and hopefully I'll be able to improve further," Pinot concluded.