Thibaut Pinot will finish as the second of two Frenchmen on the podium of the 2014 Tour de France, having had to concede second place to compatriot Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) after Saturday's stage 20 time trial.
Although the 24-year-old FDJ.fr rider was unable to fend off Péraud to protect his overnight runner's-up spot, Pinot was able to distance himself from Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who didn't have a great day against the clock, but was able to retain fourth place overall.
Astana's Vincenzo Nibali extended his race lead by finishing fourth on the stage, just under two minutes behind the day's winner, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Pinot, Péraud and Valverde had started the day in second, third and fourth overall, respectively, but it was Péraud who had the best day, finishing 45 seconds ahead of Pinot, and 2:01 in front of Valverde.
But far from being disappointed to have lost second place to Péraud, Pinot is proud to have reached the podium at all, as well as having won the white jersey as the Tour's best young rider.
“It was really me against Valverde for a place on the podium,” admitted Pinot. “I'm only 24, and he's older than me , so it was perhaps youth that counted in my favour on this occasion, after three weeks of effort.
“As for Jean-Christophe Péraud, I knew that he was going to be hard to beat, and I think I can be satisfied because I didn't lose too much time to him,” continued Pinot. “Plus it means that two French riders have finished on the podium of the Tour de France! So I'm not disappointed at all: 24 years old, third in the Tour de France, and the white jersey, having fought with the best riders in the mountains... I'm very proud.”
Pinot has enjoyed what has been at times almost overwhelming support from the French public, and has confirmed that he is a serious contender for a future Tour de France title.
“The public were amazing. I had goosebumps for at least 40 of the 54 kilometers,” Pinot said. “In fact, I was getting so much encouragement from the side of the road that I couldn't hear in my earpiece what my directeur sportif was saying to me over the radio.
“But I find it quite bizarre that I'm on the podium,” he admitted. “Perhaps it will sink in tomorrow, but tonight [Saturday], I'm finding it difficult to believe what has happened.
“What I do know now, however, is that I am capable of doing the Tour at the level I'd always hoped to, even though I couldn't have imagined being able to do so at the start of this Tour. Can I one day win it? As you can see, Nibali beat me by over eight minutes overall [8:24], and that's a considerable difference, so there's still a long way for me to go before I'm in a position to think about being able to win,” smiled Pinot.
“[Chris] Froome, [Alberto] Contador and Nibali were supposed to be battling it out for the podium spots this year, but you can never write the script for the Tour de France.”
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