Pinot finds unexpected strength at Volta a Catalunya

Groupama-FDJ's Thibaut Pinot surprised both himself and his rivals when he surged into a dangerous late breakaway during stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya, culminating in a third place on the day.

Although the four-man attack with Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Mathias Frank (AG2R La Mondiale) and Simon Yates (Michelton-Scott) was caught at the line, Pinot still managed to make third on the stage. As a result of the time bonus, the French star is now sixth overall.

Pinot was visibly pleased with his performance at the finish, talking to journalists for some time as he wheeled round after the line despite the freezing temperatures. The Volta a Catalunya is only his second race of the season, and the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, his main goals of the year, are still a good few weeks away.

Even so, on a day which was supposedly a transition stage prior to the Volta’s most decisive finish on Thursday, Pinot, Yates and Frank managed to put Movistar on the defensive. And even if the breakaway did not manage, ultimately, to stay away, it nonetheless represented an important dent in the Spanish team’s domination of the race all the same and suggests that it may not be smooth sailing for Movistar between here and Barcelona.

Pinot's third place, too, was a reminder that he can produce a fast turn of speed on the finishes of mountain stages - something that could be crucial on stage 4's uphill finish in La Molina on Thursday.

"It was important to try and get a bonus even if we know that tomorrow matters as well," Pinot told reporters afterwards. "I'm very pleased, above all, with how I felt, even if it was so cold, and that made it complicated to race. Having such good legs at this point in the season is really pleasing."

Pinot pointed out that the break had been hampered by Quintana's presence - as had been the Colombian's intention - but he would not complain about the Movistar racer's performance.

"He didn't work, but that was wholly logical, because he had Valverde behind as the leader," Pinot said. "It was just the way it worked out."

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.