Pinot surprised by good form in 2018 debut

Frenchman fifth at Haut Var ahead of Giro-Tour double

As he sets out on a slightly unusual 2018 campaign, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was perfectly satisfied with his opening pedal strokes as he finished fifth overall at the Tour du Haut Var at the weekend. 

The Frenchman's racing load has been scaled back as he looks to maintain freshness in riding both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France this year. 

Having traditionally kicked off his seasons at the GP La Marseillaise at the end of January, this year he has waited a little longer. The two-day Tour du Haut Var provided two intermediate hilly stages and he finished in the front group on both occasions, though he lacked the zip of Direct Energie's Jonathan Hivert, who won both stages and the overall. 

"My assessment of my return over the course of these two days is pretty good," Pinot told L'Equipe

"I felt a lot better on Sunday than Saturday. I think the parcours wasn't hard enough for me to expect for a really selective race. It's not really the type of hills that favour me. And on top of that it has to be said that Hivert was really strong."

Pinot has been set a maximum of 35 race days ahead of the Tour de France, 21 of which will be taken up by the Giro d'Italia in May. He will not race again until the Volta a Catalunya in a month's time, and his only other outing ahead of the Giro will be the five-day Tour of the Alps in late April.

Despite the relaxed approach to the start of the year, Pinot surprised himself with his form at Haut Var. 

"I noted that I'm progressing rapidly and that, in the end, I'm in no way behind in my preparation. I'm even a little surprised to already be at such a high level," he said. 

"I only really started riding seriously from the week before the race. I've come out of the race in a good state of freshness and but with some intensity over the two days. I still have relatively few kilometres in the legs and to find myself in the finale with the possibility of winning is pretty encouraging for what's ahead. Honestly, I can be satisfied with that."

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