On the first summit finish of the 2014 Tour de France, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) rode through the rain and fog to cross the line in fifth place conceding less than 10 seconds to his main GC rivals. Pinot now sits in 12th place overall, 3:32 minutes down on Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and is currently the third best young rider in the race.
"It's sure that I wanted to test myself," Pinot said after the stage. "It's a pity to see such a beautiful region in the mist. I still hope it was a great show in spite of the rain. To start with mid-mountain allows us to step up a gear. We spent one week on the big gear and on the climbs you need to adjust your pedaling."
The next two stages of the Tour are also in the Voges mountains and Pinot is expecting Nibali and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) to emerge as the top-two riders on the overall classification.
"For me, obviously it's going to be between Nibali and Contador," he said. "Today I saw it from a distance, I'm a little bit behind. Maybe on a stage or a hill that suits me better I will have a chance, but for the three-week race, I'm afraid they're still ahead of me."
Having been caught out in the wind and lost 59 seconds to his GC rivals on stage six, Pinot was happy to have shown what he is capable off on the slopes of the climb to Gérardmer.
"Personally, I'm happy," he said. "I am reassured [that] I am in tune with my goal. It was raining but I knew the roads and it helped me. Today I wanted to ride with the best and that's what I did."
FDJ's director sportif Yvon Madiot was pleased to see Pinot finish the stage strongly but was quick to add that the Tour is a three-week race and there is plenty of racing to come.
"The Tour de France will be long for many people," Madiot said. "In the end, I saw good riders and some who were very tired. Thibaut did very well. This morning, he knew where he was going well and what I saw was very reassuring. Overall, he is in the second wave of riders and that is good.
"At the collective level, it was good. In the last kilometers, Thibaut lost his teammates Arthur Vichot due to mechanical failure and Arnold Jeannesson who was held up by Talansky's crash but they were also good."