Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) might have closed the gap on overall leader Tom Dumoulin on stage 16 of the Giro d'Italia. However, after a tough day in the mountains, the Frenchman slipped off the podium after giving away 1:35 to stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
Pinot was one of those resigned to watching several of the big contenders go up the road when an attack from Nibali at the top of the Umbrailpass split the group of favourites. He was in good company, battling along with Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), young rider classification leader Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) and Orica-Scott's Adam Yates. They finished ahead of the distanced maglia rosa, but with his nearest podium challenger up the road winning the stage, Pinot slipped to fourth overall in the general classification.
"It's okay. It was a hard day, so I limited the gap. Anyway, since mid-race I knew I did not have the legs. So when Nibali attacked, I tried to keep the rhythm so as not to lose ground," he said after the stage.
"It's not because of the rest day. After 6 hours 30 of racing, we do not think about it, but I can say that I have not been 100 per cent for several days," he explained.
Pinot did, however, have a few choice words about the stage profile itself, saying that a brutish stage such as the one they had just faced did not add much to a race. "In any case, we know that the stages of more than 200 kilometres, of more than six a half hours of riding with 15-kilometer valleys, does not serve much, but it is necessary in a Grand Tour."
Tuesday's result was a blow for Pinot, but his DS Martial Gayant remains confident that he can recover from the setback with two days in the mountains in store for the peloton.
"Tomorrow [Wednesday] it will be hard for those who have not recovered. From the start, we go up to Aprica, and the one that does not have good sensations, for 15 kilometres will struggle," said Gayant. "There is a descent and then the Passo del Tonale which goes up to 1,900 meters. Afterwards, it's less complicated, but it's still 220 kilometres. It's going to be long.
“The hardest [stage], in my opinion, is Thursday's. Since it comes after two marathon stages and it will be a very short stage (137 km) with three passes at more than 2,200 meters. It may be severe. In finding a good Thibaut, I am certain that there is nothing lost. Thursday's stage is terrible."