The 2021 season could effectively be a write-off for Thibaut Pinot, according to Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot, who has revealed his star rider is still struggling with the back injury he sustained at last year’s Tour de France.
Pinot set out this season looking to build up to the Giro d’Italia but was forced to sit out the Italian Grand Tour as it was clear he was some way short of full fitness. He has not competed since late April and will not race the upcoming Tour de France, with no schedule currently in place for his return.
Madiot, who admitted to regrets in the way Pinot’s injury has been handled, suggested that his recovery is far from nearing completion.
"Right now we’re trying to get back on our feet, but he has suffered the consequences for a long time. We shouldn’t have let him put himself in that state," Madiot told OuestFrance.
"I hope he will be able to race again in a normal way in the coming weeks or months. Once we’ve completed that stage, it’ll be time to focus on next season - on the Tour, Giro, or Vuelta. But first of all he has to rediscover the full extent of his capacities, which is still not the case today. If we manage to do that, I have no doubts about the guy or his ability to get back to the top level."
Pinot’s injury dates back to the opening stage of the 2020 Tour de France last August 29, when he crashed late on and another rider’s front wheel collided with his back. He struggled through the remaining 20 stages, determined to reach the penultimate-day time trial near his home, but had little effect on the race and finished in 29th place.
He then bounced back to start the Vuelta a España but left the race after just two stages and ended his season. Further medical tests eventually revealed cracks in his sacrum and pelvis that had been concealed by haematomas, and he received a corticosteroid injection to advance the treatment.
After a winter of difficult rehabilitation, Pinot set out in 2021 with optimism but, despite finishing the Tour du Var, Ardèche Classic, Trofeo Laigueglia, Tirreno-Adriatico, and Tour of the Alps, it became clear the issues that had developed in his back had not been fully resolved.
"Thibaut is recovering. What happened to him, if it had been on any other race than the Tour de France, we wouldn’t be in the position we are today. He fell on the first stage of the Tour, and in another race we would have stopped him that same day and we would not be in this situation," Madiot said this week.
"In hindsight, we should have stopped him sooner, but we didn’t have all the information at the time. We did tests on the first rest day but were unable to identify what was really going on. We saw some haematomas but that’s all. If we could have investigated further, we’d have told him to stop after the first stage of the Tour. But that’s how it us. Now we’re trying to get going again and to rebuild for the future."
Young GC man David Gaudu will lead the line for Groupama-FDJ alongside sprinter Arnaud Démare at the Tour de France, which starts in Brest a week on Saturday. It remains to be seen whether Pinot can recover in time for the Vuelta a España, which starts on August 14, or for the late-season Italian Classics.
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