The aggressive FDJ rider has suffered punctures, crashes, illness and felt the weight of French expectations on his shoulders during every stage of the race after finishing third overall last year. He endured a rollercoaster race but managed to fight back and end his Tour on a high on cycling’s most famous mountain finish.
“I wanted to get to Paris with no regrets and I’ve done that now by winning. Now I can celebrate and hold my head high,” he said after his win.
"It’s my third win of 2015 and my third mountain top finish after also winning in Romandie and the Tour de Suisse. I’m proud of that and think it shows the kind of rider I am.
“Maybe a stage win looks less than third place in 2014 but it’s a positive Tour de France for me and an interesting one for my future. I usually chase attacks and follow the favourites but after the crashes, I became attacker myself.”
Pinot won thanks to a huge ride by his teammate Alexandre Geniez, who went on the attack alone before the climb to L’Alpe d’Huez and then helped Pinot put dangerous rivals Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) to the sword with six kilometres to go. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) went close to ruining Pinot’s day of glory as he tried to distance Chris Froome (Team Sky), but the Frenchman dug deep in the final two kilometres and was able to celebrate alone as he hit the finish line.
“For the French, l’Alpe d’Huez is one of the most prestigious finishes for a French rider. It was definitely a beautiful stage to win,” he said.
“We had a lot of trouble in the first week, but we knew that we were going to fight until the end and I feel that we deserve this victory, and it’s great for the team. We had a tough race losing William Bonnet and then Steve Morabito. It took us time to overcome the shock of William’s nasty crash. I’ve also been sick and had a mechanical on the cobbles. My morale was pretty low after the first four or five days but managed to focus again thanks to a good atmosphere in the team. I need a friendly atmosphere in the team to perform, and we had that at FDJ.”
Bardet has competed against his general classification rivals but also against his fellow Frenchmen Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and especially Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who won the mountain stage on Friday to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
“When Bardet won I was disappointed with my own performance but it was the day after my crash on the descent of the Col d’Allos. But crashes and punctures are part of cycling and makes it a beautiful sport. Getting back up and winning is important.”