Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) has confirmed that he will return to the Giro d’Italia in 2018 before tackling the Tour de France. It will mark the second year in succession that Pinot will tackle both the Giro and Tour, although he will follow a lighter race programme in the early part of 2018 in a bid to ensure that he is competitive in each Grand Tour.
Pinot enjoyed a fine Giro debut in 2017, placing 4th overall and winning the penultimate stage in Asiago, but he paid a price at the Tour for his efforts in Italy in May. The Frenchman began the Tour targeting stage victory rather than a high overall finish, but he was hampered by fatigue and illness, and abandoned in the final week.
Despite Pinot’s affinity for Italian racing in general and the Giro in particular, it initially seemed that he would be forced to miss the corsa rosa in 2018 in order to focus on the Tour. With a gap of six weeks rather than the usual five between the end of the Giro and the start of the Tour in 2018, however, Pinot has decided to tackle both races once again this year. Speaking at the presentation of FDJ’s new title sponsor Groupama in Paris on Wednesday, Pinot explained that he will race fewer days in the early months of the season in order to arrive fresh at the Giro and Tour.
“I’ll have a lighter programme at the start of the year, and there’ll be an extra week between the two races,” Pinot said, according to AFP. “It’s a gamble and I hope that it pays off. At the end of the July, I didn’t believe it would be feasible at all. But after having a break, we discussed it and analysed a lot of things. My desire was to do the Giro and the Tour, so it was complicated to have to choose between the two.”
Pinot has a strong record in Italian races dating back to his overall victory at the Giro della Valle d’Aosta as an amateur in 2009. After turning professional with FDJ, he proceeded to win the Settimana Lombarda in 2011, and has since shone at Il Lombardia, where he placed third in 2015 and 5th last year, and Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished third in 2017.
Pinot remained in contention for overall victory right up to the 2017 Giro’s concluding time trial in Milan, and he made no secret of his objective of finishing on the final podium in Rome this time out.
“[My aim is] to do better than last year,” Pinot said. “There’s only the podium left and that’s going to be the principal objective in the first part of the year. It’s going to be a big season, with the Giro, the Tour and then a final block taking in the Worlds Championships and Il Lombardia.”
Despite placing 3rd overall in 2014 and winning on Alpe d’Huez a year later, Pinot has endured more heartbreak than happiness at the Tour, though he said that he will approach this year’s edition “with insouciance.” He added that he will not expect to produce major results during his pared down racing programme in the early months of the season.
“You see the example of the riders who have gone well on the Tour, they’re the riders you don’t see very often,” Pinot said. “I’ve got a more old-fashioned model, I like to shine from La Marseillaise through to Il Lombardia, but in modern cycling… The races I’ll do before the Giro – the Tour du Haut-Var, the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Alps – will be preparation races, not objectives. I want to have the maximum freshness later on.”
Asked if it was possible for him or his contemporary Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) to win the Tour de France, Pinot said: “Of course. A Grand Tour, whether it’s the Tour de France, the Giro or the Vuelta is at the same level, the same depth of riders, even if for the public and the press, the Tour remains the biggest race.
“For us riders, when you aim for the Giro podium, you can also do it on the Tour. There’s no reason why a Frenchman can’t win one of these Grand Tours in the coming years.”
Pinot will be joined at the start of the 2018 Giro in Israel by defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), but it remains to be seen if Chris Froome (Team Sky) will be able to follow through on his intention to participate. The Briton returned an adverse analytical finding for twice the permissible level of salbutamol at the Vuelta a España last September and risks a suspension.
“It’s not up to me to judge. There are people more competent than me to judge and analyse these results,” Pinot said. “The threshold [the permissible limit of salbutamol – ed.] was crossed. Full stop. Of course, it’s harmful. Froome is the best rider in the world, along with [Peter] Sagan. He represents our sport. I hope that it’s going to be resolved quickly.”