Pinot heading to Vuelta a Espana 'to erase Giro memories'

Groupama-FDJ director breaks down team selection

Thibaut Pinot will lead the Groupama-FDJ squad at the Vuelta a España, looking to put his bad memories from the Giro d'Italia behind him.

The French climber all but collapsed at the end of stage 20 of the Giro while lying in third place overall, suffering a fever and pneumonia. He was hospitalised and did not start the next day, calling the experience "one of my worst days ever on the bike".

Pinot's recovery was interrupted by a tick bite that required prophylactic antibiotics to prevent an infection with Lyme Disease, but finally he returned to racing after two months, taking third overall at the Tour de Pologne.

He has been training at altitude, honing his form for the Vuelta, but said he is also building toward the World Championships and late-season classics. Pinot last raced the Vuelta in 2014 after finishing seventh there the year before, but dropped out with heatstroke.

Directeur sportif Thierry Bricaud says Pinot is looking to "put the Giro behind him" in a team press release announcing the squad for the Vuelta a España.

"He wants to wipe away the Giro's bad memories and have fun, as he did on the Tour of Poland where he finished third at the overall classification. His goal will be to win a stage. Few riders can boast of having won on the three Grand Tours. Thibaut is strong and has the abilities. We will see an offensive rider determined to win," Bricaud said.

Marc Sarreau will be the team's sprinter for the Vuelta. "He took it to the next level this year this year, and the Vuelta will validate all the progress made," Bricaud said. "He now needs to show himself at WorldTour level. Raising your arms on a Grand Tour is never easy. But we will put everything in place so that he finds himself in the best conditions."

Sarreau will be supported by Mickaël Delage who also has "had health concerns" over the past two seasons. "This Vuelta is important for him because it marks the end of a complicated cycle on the sporting side. At the collective level, Mickaël will be an essential element in the sprint lead-outs for Marc Sarreau."

The versatile Canadian champion Antoine Duchesne, who recently renewed his contract with the team, will start his first Grand Tour in Spain. "Antoine will have his card on some stages that could favour the rouleur / punchers. Then he will put himself at the service of the collective, either in the approach of sprints for Marc Sarreau or to place Thibaut Pinot in the best position when the road's profile will rise," Bricaud said.

The "reliable and indispensable" Rudy Molard will also be given freedom to go for a stage win, as he did in Paris-Nice when he won stage 6.

Georg Preidler, "the beautiful revelation of this end of the season", winner of a stage in the Tour de Pologne, will be Pinot's "luxury teammate, but will be able to jump on the chance when the right moment comes," Bricaud said.

The team is rounded out by Grand Tour debutantes Benjamin Thomas and Leo Vincent. Thomas, who raced on the track at the European Championships will be in the lead-out train for Sarreau, while Vincent will lend his support to Pinot in the mountains.

Groupama-FDJ for the Vuelta a Espana: Thibaut Pinot, Mickaël Delage, Antoine Duchesne, Rudy Molard, Georg Preidler, Marc Sarreau, Benjamin Thomas, Léo Vincent.

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