After a sparkling Tour debut in 2012 that saw him claim a stage victory and finish 10th overall, Pinot’s second tilt at La Grande Boucle unraveled on the descent of the Porte de Pailhères on the opening stage in the Pyrenees, and he abandoned through illness in the final week of the race.
Pinot returned to action with a solid showing at the Tour de l’Ain, finishing 6th overall, and after his difficult July, the Frenchman believes that he will enjoy racing away from the spotlight in Spain on a parcours well-suited to his climbing abilities.
“One thing is certain, I don’t want to live another day with my disappointment from the Tour,” Pinot told L’Équipe. “In the Vuelta, I want to rediscover the pleasure of racing and finding myself among the best climbers on terrain that suits me well.”
Pinot is making his Vuelta debut, although he was initially slated to take part in last year's race only to be fast-tracked into the Tour de France team on the back of a series of fine displays at the Tour de Suisse. He was keen to downplay expectations ahead of this Vuelta, however, pointing out that the level of opposition in Spain would be much higher than it was at the recent Tour de l’Ain.
“If that had been a WorldTour race, I wouldn’t have been at the level required,” said Pinot, who finished 4th overall at the Tour de Suisse and impressed at the Volta a Catalunya earlier in the season.
“That’s why I’m not coming to the Vuelta with my ambitions set too high. This year, I would have ridden it anyway but originally the intention was to prepare for the world championships, which I really want to take part in this year.
“My abandon at the Tour de France has altered the situation. I’d be happy with a stage win or, at worst, with finishing up there with the best climbers on the hard stages. I know that I’ll really enjoy this race is I’m in good form. It’s what I need.”
FDJ directeur sportif Franck Pineau reiterated that Pinot was under no pressure in Spain, and suggested that he might not be at his best until the tail end of the race. “Why not wait until the final week to see where he is and if he is able to do what he would like to do?” Pineau said. “He is among friends here and he wants to enjoy his racing.”