In an interview with L’Équipe published on Saturday, the Frenchman revisited his travails on the penultimate stage of the Giro and acknowledged that his tendency to fall ill during Grand Tours limits his prospects of winning a three-week stage race.
Pinot was on course for a podium place at this year’s Giro only to lose 45 minutes on the final mountain stage to Cervinia. He was taken to hospital in Aosta that evening and was too ill to start the following day’s concluding stage in Rome.
“It’s not that it just happens often, it always happens. Apart from the 2014 Tour [where Pinot placed 3rd overall – ed.], I’ve never been at 100% like the other leaders in three-week races,” Pinot told L’Équipe. “I have the impression that it happens to me every time, even though I follow long-term treatments to help my immune system. It’s hard to deal with in your head, because I know that my only enemy is myself and my health. That’s maybe what differentiates me from the great riders, who stay at 100% over three weeks.”
After placing in the first chasing group, three minutes behind Chris Froome (Team Sky), at Bardonecchia on stage 19, Pinot was confident of finishing on the final podium of the Giro and had even targeted stage victory at Cervinia. After a poor night’s sleep, however, he realised that his task would be more difficult, and he began to struggle with the effects of a fever after the stage began.
“I went from a legendary day on the Friday, without doubt the most significant of my career, to a catastrophe on the Saturday,” Pinot said. “When I got back to the hotel and saw I was spitting blood, I was very frightened. In the ambulance, I wasn’t conscious anymore and I didn’t know what was happening to me. The worst was at the hospital, when the doctor who carried out the scans asked me if I had already had lung problems. The ten minutes of waiting for the results were agonising. I thought the worst.”
After travelling home to the Franche-Comté, Pinot took a week of complete rest before contemplating whether or not to ride the Tour, but it was already evident that he would be in fit state to start La Grande Boucle, which gets underway on July 7.
Pinot’s first training ride since the Giro only came on Thursday, when he got out for an hour and a half. He has yet to establish a time table for his return to racing, though the Vuelta a España and World Championships would seem logical late-season objectives, condition permitting.
“If I go to the Vuelta, it would be to be 100% at the start, not to ride it still in a reduced state,” Pinot said. “I’ve been told that it can take several months to recover from pneumonia. As I’m a high-level sportsman, I hope that it goes quicker for me and that I’ll be fully fit in August. The ideal would be to be fresh for the end of the season and, why not, think of this objective of the Worlds.”
Pinot has pledged, meanwhile, to return to the Tour in 2019. “Obviously, I’ll go back there to do my best, like always,” he said. “But not an any price.”