Pinot surprised by difficulty of Tour de France's Swiss summit

FDJ leader recons the Tour's Alpine stages with his likely teammates in July

Taking advantage of a four-week gap between racing appearances, Thibaut Pinot has spent several days on a mini training camp in the French Alps with seven of his FDJ teammates, enabling them to check over the final key stages of the Tour de France.

From their base at Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe in Savoie, the eight FDJ riders carried out a recon of the Tour's 17th stage to the Émosson-Finhaut summit finish in Switzerland, the 20th stage that concludes with the ascent of the Col de Joux Plane and the tricky descent off it into Morzine, the 17-kilometre mountain time trial between Sallanches and Megève, which takes place the day after the Émosson stage, and, to finish with, the 15th stage over the Grand Colombier into Culoz.

"I was surprised by the finish [at Émosson], I didn't think it was so hard," Pinot told L'Équipe. "The linking together of the Forclaz pass and Émosson means there is more than 1,000 metres of vertical gain. It's one of the race's most difficult finishes along with the Ventoux."

The eight riders concluded their camp with a look at the stage 18 mountain time trial, taking the opportunity to test out equipment. “It's a time trial that suits climbers, so it ticks all of the boxes for me. I haven't done too many time trials like this one," Pinot explained.

Pinot was accompanied by Arthur Vichot, Jérémy Roy, Matthieu Ladagnous, Anthony Roux, William Bonnet, Sébastien Reichenbach and Steve Morabito, who are all pencilled in as Tour starters. The ninth slot on the FDJ team is likely to go to Alexandre Geniez, assuming he recovers fully from the wrist injury that forced him out of the Giro during its opening days.

"I've always said that my objective is to finish as close as possible to the podium," Pinot said of his aims for July. "If I finish fourth, three minutes down on third place, I won't have any regrets. If I'm fifth and 15 seconds off the podium I'll also be happy."

Having finished second on his last racing appearance at the Tour de Romandie at the start of this month, Pinot's build-up to the Tour will continue at the Critérium du Dauphiné in early June.

"I’m going to go there with the intention of contending for the overall. I've set myself a little target: not finishing outside the top five this season," revealed Pinot, who had already finished third at Bessèges, fourth in the Algarve, fifth at Tirreno, first in the Criterium International and fourth in the Vuelta al País Vasco prior to being runner-up at Romandie.

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