While his French rival Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) has decided to focus solely on the Tour de France in 2017, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) is ready to face a more aggressive and unconventional season according to French sports newspaper L'Equipe. The French rider will target overall victory Giro d'Italia and then stage victories or the climber's polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France.
The FDJ rider has endured a difficult relationship with his home Grand Tour. He has won two stages, including at L'Alpe d'Huez in 2015, and finished third overall in 2014. However he has also abandoned the race twice, including this year after struggling under the weight of huge expectation and a weakening viral infection.
The decision to target the Giro d'Italia and only stages at the Tour de France seems to be a way for Pinot to rebuild his Grand Tour ambitions. The 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia is very demanding, with two time trial stages that could be a handicap for the Pinot. He has never ridden the Giro d'Italia but is enamoured with Italian racing and the history and aggressive racing of the Giro d’Italia.
"I really want to do this Giro," Pinot told L'Equipe in late October. "It's a very attractive parcours. There are six real uphill finishes and two real time trials. It quickly becomes spectacular, with the finish on Etna on the fourth day."
Targeting the Giro d'Italia would allow Pinot to tackle a three-week race outside the pressure cooker of competing in his homeland.
"I want to get back into the dynamics of a good general classification on a three-week race," said Pinot, speaking to another French newspaper Liberation. "I have had two failures in the Tour de France from this point of view - or a failure and a half, considering my victory at the Alpe d'Huez.
"Frankly, it would be great to break the routine, to test a climb like the Stelvio which I still have never done."
Pinot has not raced since stage 12 of the Tour de France to Mont Ventoux but is already back in training with his FDJ teammates in Calpe, Spain. His race calendar has still to be confirmed but is likely to start early in the 2017 season and allow him to be at his best in May for the Giro d'Italia as he challenges Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru and others for the maglia rosa.