While the seconds won and lost by the Tour de France’s Big Four on the Mur de Huy may yet count for little once the race enters the high mountains, the 1:33 conceded by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) on stage 3 had the feel of an altogether more significant setback.
Having already conceded 1:28 when he was caught out in the crosswinds on the opening road stage to Zeeland on Sunday, Pinot knew that he could ill afford a further misstep as the peloton crossed into Belgium.
The warning signs of a jour sans were already apparent when Pinot was among those wrong-footed by a brief split in the peloton ahead of the Côte d'Ereffe and his situation became altogether more alarming when he was distanced when the race broke up in earnest over the top of the penultimate climb, the Côte de Cherave.
Already 20 seconds down on the leaders by the time he reached the base of the Mur de Huy, Pinot’s was now an exercise in damage limitation but his travails only increased on the climb itself. He crossed the line and now lies 27th overall, 2:58 down on new race leader Chris Froome (Sky).
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