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Pinot talks of 'renaissance' after Tirreno-Adriatico top 10

Tirreno Adriatico 2022 - 57th Edition - 6th stage Apecchio - Carpegna 215 km - 12/03/2022 - Thibaut Pinot (FRA - Groupama - FDJ) - Jai Hindley (AUS - Bora - Hansgrohe) - Damiano Caruso (ITA - Bahrain Victorious) - photo Ilario Biondi/SprintCyclingAgency©2022
Thibaut Pinot in action at Tirreno-Adriatico (Image credit: SprintCyclingAgency 2022)

Thibaut Pinot has had a torrid time over the past 18 months but he now sees light at the end of the tunnel, talking of a 'renaissance' after an encouraging week at Tirreno-Adriatico

The Frenchman started out expecting more of the same after what he described as his "worst time trial in 10 years" on the opening day, but he surprised himself by bouncing back and finishing the race in the top 10. 

Pinot, who came close to winning the Tour de France in 2019, saw his career thrown off track when he crashed and injured his back on the opening day of the 2020 Tour de France. He struggled on to Paris but only made the issue worse, and his problems persisted throughout the 2021 campaign. 

Despite a rocky winter and early-season, in which he was hampered by multiple illnesses, the 31-year-old, as he saw it, came back to life at Tirreno. 

"I've not felt that good since the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné and, a year and a half later, I feel like I've got a new lease of life," Pinot told L'Equipe (opens in new tab)

"I hope that for me this is the start of a renaissance."

Having placed 11th at Etoile de Bessèges and 24th at Tour du Var (with third place on the final stage) in between illnesses,Pinot arrived at Tirreno and placed 91st in the opening time trial, conceding more than a minute to Tadej Pogačar over just 13.9km. 

On the following days, he started to work to set up sprints for teammate Arnaud Démare, and immediately noticed a difference 

"After [the time trial], I said to myself 'don't put pressure on yourself, do your kilometres and then see'. The next day I worked a bit for Arnaud and I already did a higher four-minute power output than in the time trial, so the legs were there."

Pinot he then found himself finishing with the bulk of GC contenders - albeit lagging behind Pogačar – on the punchy stages. His race, however, really came to life on the key climbing stage with its double ascent of Monte Carpegna, where he placed seventh.

"On the first ascent, I looked back, and there were only 20 of us. When you don't understand why the others were dropped, you know you're on a good day," he said.

"My morale is at nine out of 10. I have to enjoy this. I've been waiting so long to be among the favourites again, and not dropped in the gruppetto 10 or 15 minutes back. I don't want to experience that again."

Having had a disrupted start to the season, Pinot believes there's plenty of room for improvement. Just stringing races together must feel like some sort of success at this point but now his ambitions will naturally grow. 

He is set for a busy April of racing, taking in the Circuit de la Sarthe, Classic Grand Besançon, Tour of the Alps, and Tour de Romandie. 

"I'm not up to my 100 per cent potential, and that gives me confidence and calmness for the rest of the season," he said.

"I want to really play a role. If I can win something before the Tour de France, that would be ideal."

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.