Pinot: I'm going to the Criterium du Dauphine to win

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) has promised to race aggressively as he heads into Sunday's opening stage of the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné.

The Frenchman comes into the race hot on the heels of a dominant performance at the Tour de l'Ain, where he won a stage and the overall title. The Tour de France in July remains Pinot's ultimate focus this year but the Critérium du Dauphiné is an important stepping stone for a rider who has concentrated on the Giro d'Italia over the last two season.

"My main objective in the Critérium du Dauphiné will be to work with my team and go face to face with the strong field and the competition that awaits me there," Pinot said.

"I'm itching to start the race, I won't be holding myself back. My plan is to go on the attack, jump from the front and race aggressively. I want to win. If I can do this, the general classification will follow."

Having ridden the Giro d'Italia the last two seasons, Pinot's last venture at the Critérium du Dauphiné came in 2016. That year he won a mountain stage into Méribel but finished 16th in the overall classification. This time around he faces a world-class field that includes three-time Critérium du Dauphiné winner Chris Froome (Team Ineos), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton Scott), who finished second overall in 2018. The defending champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) will not racing June's marquee event and will instead build his Tour de France form at the Tour de Suisse later in the month.

For Pinot, the eight-day race will be a chance to race aggressively, and with climbs peppering even the first two stages the Frenchman could look to test his rivals from the get-go. With the Tour de France on the horizon, Pinot is confident of his form.

"I've just finished a block of solid training, with several camps in which I reconnoitred Tour de France stages. I won the last race I entered, the Tour de l'Ain, so it's only normal to feel relaxed and confident going into the Dauphiné. I'm bang on schedule," he said.

The stage 4 time trial also offers Pinot the chance to test himself against his Tour de France rivals. The 26.1km course will be run over a similar style of course as used during the Pau time trial at the Tour, and for a number of riders on the start list, it will be a rare chance this season to race an individual time test ahead of July.

"The time trial will be one of the highlights of the week. I did a specific time trialling camp in May, so I'm looking forward to seeing how I feel on a stage that is not entirely unlike the Tour de France time trial we will face in Pau in July."

Cyclingnews will have complete live coverage from the Dauphine, starting this Sunday. We will also have daily race reports, video highlights and podcasts featuring Philippa York.

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