Thibaut Pinot called his overall win at the Tour of the Alps the biggest of his entire career. The Groupama-FDJ rider said that it had been a perfect week after he beat Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) to take the title by 15 seconds.
Pinot came within seven seconds of winning the race last season only to be beaten by Geraint Thomas. The Frenchman showed his intentions early on with an attack on the opening stage and continued in that vein for the remaining four days. He moved into the race lead after stage 3, and despite a slim advantage, he kept hold of it for the remainder of the race.
"It's a very important race. Without a doubt, the Tour of the Alps is a mythical race for climbers, so for me to add it to my palmarès is amazing – and on top of that to do it against riders of the highest level. For me, it's one of the greatest victories of my career," Pinot said at the finish. "This was the perfect week. We had perfect weather and a perfect route and everything just went even better than I could imagine.
Just two weeks sit between the end of the Tour of the Alps and the start of the Giro d'Italia in Jerusalem. Pinot finished fourth at the Giro d'Italia last season and is arguably well ahead of the form that he had going into the race 12 months ago. Though he has beaten many of the riders that he will go up against next month, Pinot says that he's not yet thinking about the Giro d'Italia.
"I'm happy to be one of the favourites for the Giro but the most important thing for me right now was to win such an important stage race and to have it on my palmarès. Much has been said about the Giro but I haven't started thinking about it yet."
Though he made many of his own, Pinot had to endure an onslaught of attacks from his rivals in order to win. Both of his closest rivals Lopez and Pozzovivo made stinging attacks on the final climb of stage 5, putting Pinot under a lot of pressure with nobody left from his team to help.
"When Miguel Angel Lopez slipped away during the descent I couldn't do anything but stick on his wheel," said Pinot. "When Pozzovivo attacked it was not easy to resist. I actually managed to catch back up with him, and at that moment when I caught him, I realised that I had won.
"It was an incredible race, across all five days. It was five days of battle. There were no gifts. I'm really happy to write my name into this race, which, for a climber, is very prestigious."
They were unlikely to be thinking about it in the heat of battle but the final stage of the Tour of the Alps gave the peloton an opportunity to recon parts of the World Championships route. The course took them over the Olympia climb three times, although they did not have a chance to see the toughest part of the Worlds route, the 'Hell Climb'. Some of the riders headed out to check it out following the stage, but Pinot will wait to do it on Saturday. Even without seeing it in the flesh, Pinot is anticipating a hugely difficult Worlds in September.
"I guess the World Championships are going to be complicated and difficult especially with regard to having a 28 per cent gradient stretch with a short descent and no time to recover," said Pinot. "Today we did not cover this last stretch so it's very difficult to imagine how it's going to be, but my feeling is this will be one of the hardest and toughest world championships in a long time. They are going to be super anyway."
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