Thibaut Pinot’s Tour de France challenge fell apart due to his fretful descending but the FDJ rider showed that his talent when the road goes uphill remains intact with a fine display on stage 10 of the Vuelta a España on Monday.
Pinot was part of an elite leading group that formed on the steepest section of the final climb, the Alto Hazallanas, and while he was unable to track the acceleration of stage winner Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard), he finished the day in 6th place in the same time as overall contenders Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Ivan Basso (Cannondale).
“I’m very happy with my stage, I haven’t had legs like that since the start of the season,” Pinot said, according to his team website.
The 23-year-old Frenchman entered the Vuelta aiming to restore his morale by preparing for the world championships and challenging for a stage win in the tough final week of the race. After finishing 4th at Peñas Blancas on Saturday, Pinot gave a further illustration of his form on the first major mountain stage of the race.
In spite of briefly losing contact with the leading group due to the ferocity of Vincenzo Nibali’s pressing, Pinot recovered sufficiently to contribute to the pursuit of Horner and he was again prominent when Nibali clipped off the front of the chase group in the final two kilometres.
“I did a bit too much work behind Nibali on the final climb but I don’t regret anything,” said Pinot, who is hopeful that he can benefit from the tightly-packed and highly tactical battle for seconds at the head of the overall standings. “In this race, there are Spanish riders marking one another and Italians who have an understanding, but I’ve found my place.”
Pinot now lies in 8th place overall, 3:11 down on the red jersey of Horner. After finishing in 10th place in his grand tour debut at last year’s Tour de France, he knows that he has the legs to match or better that result at this Vuelta, but he preached caution given that there is still half of the race to come.
“I’m 8th on the general classification but I’m not paying attention to that because if I have a bad day, I could easily slip back,” he said. “But the rest day will do me good.”