After a tough summer, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) finally got himself back onto the top step of the podium with overall victory at the Tour de l'Ain this week. Pinot was forced to abandon the Tour de France in the final week after falling ill, but the race had already been a bit lacklustre prior to that.
Despite a disappointing performance at his home race, Pinot says he can look back on a good season that brought him stage wins at the Giro d'Italia, the Tour of the Alps and the Ruta del Sol.
"I put pressure on myself because I wanted to catch up with myself after the Tour de France. The morale is good. At this stage, I think I had a good season despite the Tour."
Pinot rode a consistent Tour de l'Ain, finishing second on the final two stages after opening the race with fourth in the prologue. He went into the final stage with a one-second lead over his teammate David Gaudu, while the nearest threat was Alexander Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale) was almost a minute down. Geniez would go onto win the final stage, but Pinot held onto him to take the overall win by 14 seconds over Gaudu.
"The management of this stage wasn't difficult," said Pinot. "Everything went as we planned in the briefing, we were never put in danger. I must say that here we had a great team.
"In the last kilometre, the peloton was coming back, [Matteo] Cattaneo attacked 500 meters from the line, I made an effort and got back into his wheel. Geniez countered and won, but that's how it goes. I am satisfied with this day and this victory. The sensations were not bad today, but they were really good on Friday."
It has been a busy season by Pinot's standards with two Grand Tours and 69 days of racing, 15 more than he did last year – although that was cut short by illness that also led to his abandoning of the Tour and missing the Olympic Games. Sickness has been plaguing him since leaving the Tour during stage 17, and he's hoping to take a short break before reassessing his goals for the remainder of the season.
"Since February, I've had plenty of pressure, and I do not know what the rest of my season will be," he said. "I will take eight to 10 days without riding and resume training, and then I will take a look at my program.
"Here, I was lucky that the weather was cool, but in practice, last week, I did not have the same sensations as at the beginning of the season. I will go on holiday in the south, and I think it will do me a lot of good. I need it. It's not bad to break with a win."
Pinot went onto say that he's already thinking about his goals next year, "and impatiently looking forward to the routes of the 2018 Giro and Tour."