Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) placed third on the opening stage of the Tour of the Alps on Monday and declared himself satisfied with his showing after a month away from racing. The Frenchman was last in action at Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
The short, final climb of Hungerburg demanded explosiveness, and Pinot was initially unable to match the acceleration of Geraint Thomas (Sky) in the finale, but he made it back up to the leaders before the finish line, where he placed third in the group sprint behind Thomas and stage winner Michele Scarponi (Astana).
“The sensations are good, but the first days of racing for me are always complicated,” Pinot told L’Equipe. “I knew that I’d be a bit short, so I’m happy to finish third all the same. This type of finish demands a violent effort. I would have preferred something other than a summit finish for the first day back.”
Pinot’s directeur sportif Jussi Veikkanen was encouraged by his display, and his recovery on the final approach to the line.
“The race kicked off again in the hard section, with the two climbs midway through, and that’s where we took things in hand and calmed it down,” he told the FDJ team website. “Johan Le Bon and William Bonnet did good work. Sky came to help us in the finale. In the last ten kilometres, Tobias Ludvigsson was super alongside Thibaut, and Jérémy Roy and Steve Morabito were up there too.
“Thibaut did a good climb without cracking and he got back on with 500 metres to go. The main thing is that he still had the strength then to go on and finish third.”
Pinot is at the Tour of the Alps to prepare for his Giro d’Italia debut next month. After focusing on the Tour de France in each of the past five years, Pinot has made the corsa rosa the centrepiece of his 2017 campaign. He began his season with a stage win at the Ruta del Sol, before placing third behind Giro favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rohan Dennis (BMC) at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Ahead of the Tour of the Alps, Pinot downplayed his chances of overall victory, stating that his primary intention was to build towards the Giro. “My main goal is to find good some feelings so I can start the Giro d’Italia with serious ambitions,” he said. “I am coming off a training camp in the Canary Islands. I can count on a strong team even if we don’t have our top climbing team here. I hope to win a stage, and then to see what I can do in the GC.”