From his seat near the front of the Palais des Congrès during the 2020 Tour de France route presentation, Thibaut Pinot had to re-live footage of his dramatic abandon on this year’s race. By the time the lights went up in the auditorium, however, his thoughts were firmly on the 2020 edition of the race, which features a course that seems tailored to his talents.
“The page is turned, you have to think about other things,” Pinot said. “Obviously, it was difficult. August wasn’t the best month of my life. It was a big disappointment and it was hard to accept, but with time it’s better.”
Given the number of leaks in recent weeks, there were few surprises when Christian Prudhomme unveiled the Tour route on Tuesday morning. There are climbs dotted throughout the three weeks of the race, starting with a foray into the Alps on stage 2 and concluding with a mountain time to La Planche des Belles Filles, a stone’s throw from Pinot’s native Mélisey, on the penultimate stage.
“It’s a course for me, but not only me,” Pinot said. “It’s for all the climbers, and I think it suits Bernal completely. But it’s a course that I like.”
The Grand Départ in Nice – just the second in Tour history – means the peloton begins climbing on the opening weekend, and there are also summit finishes at Orcières-Merlette and Mont Aigoual in the first week, which should provoke early gaps in the general classification. There are precious few transitional stages thereafter, and Pinot was enthusiastic about the idea that general classification contenders might be compelled to race day in, day out.
“There are climbs immediately and then almost all the time. There aren’t big gaps between the mountain ranges,” Pinot said. “The Massif Central is very well placed in the middle of this Tour. We’re climbing straight away in Nice, then we’re in the Massif Central before the Pyrenees and back in there before the Alps. That’s a good thing and it means that it will be a battle every day.”
Tour de France 2020
In 2019, Pinot won atop the Tour’s most frequented mountain pass, the Col du Tourmalet. Next July, the race features some new finishes, including the Puy Mary on stage 13. “It’s an area I know but not that well, so I’ll have to go and reconnoitre it because it’s a col that’s quite particular,” Pinot said. “It’s a bit of a change from the classic finales, but that’s ok, novelty isn’t a bad thing.”
Pinot hasn’t raced since he was forced to abandon the 2019 Tour on stage 19 with a thigh injury. The Frenchman was lying 5th overall, but just 20 seconds behind eventual winner Egan Bernal, when he left the race. He has already confirmed that he will target the Tour de France in 2020 rather than return to the Giro d’Italia, which he rode in 2017 and 2018.
“I’m going to start training again in November. My injury needed almost 3 weeks to heal so I only got back to regular activity in the month of September,” Pinot said. “Now I’m having a spell off the bike and I’m concentrated on 2020.”