Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) has named Nairo Quintana (Movistar) as the man to beat at the Giro d'Italia after placing third overall behind him at Tirreno-Adriatico. Pinot is set to make his Giro debut this season, having focused on the Tour de France with varying degrees of success over the past five seasons.
Pinot began Wednesday's final time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto in second place, 50 seconds down on Quintana, and though he clawed back 14 seconds of his deficit, he slipped behind stage winner Rohan Dennis (BMC) in the final overall standings.
"My objective coming in here was the podium so I'm pleased to have defended my third place today and I'm pleased with my sensations at the end of this race," Pinot said. "Now I'm thinking about my preparation for the Giro."
Quintana's Tirreno-Adriatico victory, forged on the slopes of Monte Terminillo on Saturday, was his second in three years. Despite a line-up that will include defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Fabio Aru (Astana), Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Pinot, Quintana's early season form has marked him out as the favourite for Giro victory. Quintana won the maglia rosa on his lone previous appearance in 2014.
"There are lots of outsiders, lots of riders who can finish on the podium, but the big favourite before the start will be Quintana," Pinot said. "We'll try to beat him, but like Froome at the Tour, Quintana is the big favourite at the Giro."
Although Pinot is making his Giro debut, he has raced frequently on Italian roads throughout his career, stretching back to his win in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta as an amateur in 2009. He claimed the overall title at the Settimana Lombarda in his second year as a professional in 2011, placed third at the Tour of Lombardy in 2015 and has now finished in the top five at Tirreno-Adriatico in each of the past three seasons.
"The objective for Tirreno was the podium and it will be the same for the Giro, but it's a race that I don't know at all," Pinot said. "I'll just look to do as well as possible and if I could manage to finish on the podium, that would be a super result."
Although Pinot lost a place on general classification in Tuesday's concluding time trial, his improvement in the discipline over the past three seasons is an important addition to his armoury for a three-week race. His best finish in a Grand Tour remains his third place in the 2014 Tour de France.
"My strong point above all is my ability to recover day by day. I'm a stage race rider. I know well that the longer a race goes on, the better I feel," Pinot said. "My weakness is probably descending, especially when it's technical, I'm less assured than some riders, but I look to compensate in time trials and the mountains."
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