Pinot to reduce race schedule ahead of 2018 Tour de France

Frenchman still undecided on Giro d'Italia participation

Thibaut Pinot has yet to decide on his participation in the 2018 Giro d'Italia, but FDJ manager Marc Madiot has already confirmed that the Frenchman will race more sparingly in the early part of the season in order to arrive fresh at the start of the Tour de France on July 7.

Pinot won a stage and placed 4th overall on his Giro debut in 2017, and remained in contention for a podium spot into the final day, but he paid a price for his Italian exploits in July and abandoned the Tour on stage 17.

The Tour will be the centrepiece of Pinot's 2018 season, with Madiot explaining that his racing days in the opening half of the year will be capped, regardless of whether or not he lines out again at the Giro.

FDJ – which will be rebranded as Groupama-FDJ from Monday – claimed an early stage win through Arnaud Démare on the 2017 Tour, but endured a wretched race thereafter, with only three riders making it to the finish in Paris.

"We have made our calculations and in both scenarios, he [Pinot] will start the Tour with a maximum of 32 days of racing," Madiot told L'Équipe. "The order of the day is 'freshness.' Thibaut was lacking it last year, Arnaud too. For both, the culmination of 2018 will be the Tour de France."

Pinot started the 2017 Tour with 46 days of racing in his legs. According to L'Équipe, Pinot is due to start his season at the Tour du Haut Var on February 17. He will skip Tirreno-Adriatico for the first time since 2013, and will return to the Volta a Catalunya for the first time since 2014, the year of his third place finish at the Tour.

While Pinot has expressed a desire to return to the Giro after his fine debut in 2017, Madiot is firm in his belief that the 27-year-old should forgo the corsa rosa in favour of focusing squarely on the Tour. Madiot also noted that the mountainous World Championships course in Innsbruck on September 30 should also be factored into Pinot's planning. Pinot has already made a habit of performing strongly at Il Lombardia in recent seasons, placing 3rd in 2015 and 5th in 2017.

"To maintain his freshness until the end of the season, I think it's best not to go to the Giro," Madiot said. "It's a lot to stake on a one-day race, but it's the Worlds and you need to take some risks because a circuit as difficult as this doesn't come along very often. And he'll need to earn leadership in the French team, [Cyrille] Guimard won't just give it to him like that."

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