Pinot maintains ambitions to win the Tour de France

FDJ looking to strengthen team for decisive flat stages

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) has promised to continue to target the overall classification at the Tour de France despite his struggling in this year’s race.

Pinot won the stage to l’Alpe d’Huez with a last-ditched show of pride, saving his Tour de France, but he finished 16th, 38:52 behind winner Chris Froome (Team Sky). In 2014 he finished third behind Vincenzo Nibali, but this year he got ill, cracked mentally and lost time on several key stages, including on the cobbles and in the mountains.

The Frenchman’s aggressive style and natural panache helps him target stages but he is convinced he can be an overall contender in the years to come.

“If I continue targeting stages in the years to come, it’d be the easy option. But my career has been shaped: I’m a team leader for the general classification at the Tour,” Pinot told French newspaper l'Equipe, reviewing his Tour de France.

“My goal has to be to avoid losing 15 or 20 minutes so I then switch to going for stage victories. My goal is to get back on the podium and try to get on the top step in the years to come. When you don’t have the pressure of the general classification for three weeks, it changes everything. This time it was easier than last year. Targeting the podium for three weeks is something else.”

Team manager Marc Madiot is convinced that his leader will always have a chance of victory in the years to come.

“The circumstances make you become an attacking rider but he has to have other goals,” the Breton team manager said. "I think he can finish in the top five every year and when you do that anything can happen if things go your way, you can even win. Considering his age and what he’s already done, he can’t be just a stage hunter.”

Taking on Quintana

Pinot is still only 25; the same age as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Madiot knows that he will have to strengthen the FDJ team if Pinot is to take on Froome and Quintana in the future.

“Quintana is the best climber in the world and I’m not and never will be. But during the Tour you never know what can happen. He can have a bad day, lose time in a echelon,” Pinot argued.

It seems that the FDJ management is awaiting to hear its final budget for 2016 and 2017 but directeur sportif Yvon Madiot admitted it may need to sign some Classics riders to help Pinot if the first week of the Tour de France.

“We suffered quite a few blows this year. Now in all the major teams the Classics riders play an important role. Team Sky has Stannard, Thomas and Porte; Tinkoff-Saxo has Tosatto, Sagan and Bennati. These guys are 1.80m tall and weigh 80kg, they’re not babies. We’re physically lightweights in comparison. You can lose the Tour anywhere but now you can win it in the first week.”

Marc Madiot promised to strengthen the FDJ team to help Pinot in 2016.

“We don’t know our budget yet but we will strengthen the team for sure,” Madiot said. “We need strong riders for the flat and for the mountains, riders who can handle both. We need experienced riders can play a decisive role.”

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