Thibaut Pinot's preparation for his debut Giro d'Italia has largely gone to plan since his announcement in the winter. However, despite claiming a win and finishing second overall at the Tour of the Alps late last month the Frenchman from FDJ is downplaying his overall hopes on the eve of the 100th Giro.
The death of Michele Scarponi the morning after the Tour of the Alps, where the Italian had won his first race since 2013, and less than ideal training conditions see the 26-year-old lessening his expectations of the race.
"I've had a few difficult days after the Tour of the Alps," said Pinot of the race where he also won a stage. "Emotionally, I've been down for a couple of days because of the tragic death of Michele Scarponi, someone I appreciated a lot. I've also had troubles for training due to the bad weather."
Making his Grand Tour debut at the 2012 Tour de France, winning a memorable stage and finishing tenth overall, Pinot has gone on to taste the highs and lows of the life as a GC rider at the three-week races. Third overall and best young rider jersey at the Tour in 2014 was followed by a DNF at the Vuelta a España and his last two Tour's have been far from ideal. Pinot is aiming to kick start his GC ambitions at the Giro and therefore stayed away from hyperbole when stating his intentions 24 hours out from stage 1.
"This is my first participation in the Giro d’Italia. Maybe I'll need a few before I can win the overall. I come here after two failures on GC at the Tour de France but regardless of what happened in July last year, I already had decided to take part in the 100th Giro one and half years ago," said Pinot.
Despite talking down his chances, Pinot has enjoyed a successful outing on Italian soil thus far in 2017. Third place overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, ninth at Strade Bianche, and his recent Tour of the Alps result all point to smooth run in. Assisted by a stage win and third place overall at the Ruta de Sol. Pinot's early season form of 2016 amounted to little by the Tour as he was struck down by illness. While he appears to be in form and good condition, Pinot spoke of himself as his "biggest opponent" when assessing his overall rivals.
"I can always have a bad day. I know my rivals, I’ve raced them for a few years now," he said. "The climate shouldn’t be a problem for me, except if the temperature raises to 50°. I hope to not crash or fall sick, and to get the best possible result in Milan. Everyone says Quintana is the favourite. Behind him, we’re about ten riders pretty much at the same level."
With the first three stages in Sardinia titled towards the sprinters and opportunists, stage 4's ascent of Mount Etna will be Pinot's fist real test of the Giro. Should Pinot prevail on the volcano, he could finish the day in pink and become the first Frenchman since Laurent Jalabert in 1999 to pull on the maglia rosa.
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