Young French hope Thibaut Pinot shone in a number of Italian races last season and the FDJ-BigMat rider was happy to eschew Paris-Nice for Tirreno-Adriatico, which gets underway on Wednesday afternoon.
“I really like Italy,” Pinot told L’Équipe. “I like the nice routes, varied but always difficult, and I like the atmosphere – the starts in the squares, going through hilltop villages, the public with its big cycling culture. And besides, it’s cold and there are echelons at Paris-Nice…”
For the 21-year-old Pinot, Tirreno-Adriatico is “the first big rendezvous of the season.” Winner of the Settimana Lombarda and a strong performer at the Tre Valli Varesine last year, Pinot should find a number of stages suited to his characteristics during the seven days of racing in Italy.
“There’s something for everyone – two time trials for the rouleurs, two stages for the sprinters but above all there are some finishes for the climbers and the puncheurs.”
It is on the marquee stages at the weekend that Pinot will particularly look to stretch himself. Stage 4 on Saturday sees the peloton tackle a mammoth 252km before a sharp uphill finish in Chieti, while the following day is marked by the summit finish atop the Prati di Tivo.
A 14km climb so early in the season is a rare test, and Pinot will have the chance to gauge his progress by rubbing shoulders with the likes of Cadel Evans, Michele Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali in Abruzzo.
“On high-percentage gradients, I’m still missing some force to be able to follow the best, but the slopes we’ll have this week suit me quite well,” Pinot said. “I’m not fixing myself any specific objective, but if I succeed in following the best, I’ll be satisfied.”
The race is of course bookended by two time trials. Though a climber by reputation, Pinot is aware that he must not neglect any part of his armoury as he continues his development.
“We have the team for the team time trial,” he said. “In the 9km individual time trial [on the final day – ed.], I can limit the damage.”