On Thursday Thibaut Pinot was in tears after being caught in the final kilometre of stage 4 of the Tour of the Alps. Just 24 hours later, after another day on the attack, he was overjoyed and emotional to have won the final stage to Lienz in Austria.
The Groupama-FDJ rider got away with David de la Cruz (Astana Qazaqstan) from a bigger break and finally cracked the Spaniard on the short climb to the finish line.
Pinot hugged his soigneur after crossing the line and could hardly believe that his heart break in defeat had turned to joy so quickly.
Thibaut Pinot had not won a race for 1,007 days, last celebrating when he conquered the Col du Tourmalet at the 2019 Tour de France. He was later forced out of that year's race on stage 19 while lying fifth overall due to a leg muscle issue. And a crash in the 2020 race on the opening stage around Nice and subsequent back pain wrecked much of his 2021 season.
He returned to racing, albeit gradually, last summer and has continued to progress in early-season stage races in 2022. However, he was lacking a morale-boosting victory that could wipe away the pain, suffering and doubts of the last two years prior to his planned return to the Tour de France in July.
“Now people are finally going to stop talking about how it’s been a thousand days since I last won on the Tourmalet and that’s a relief and a release,” Pinot said happily before explaining how defeat on Thursday had served as inspiration the following day.
“Motivating myself from my failures is one of my specialities. Each failure gives me strength and today I was really prepared to go beyond my limits. Right from the start I didn’t miss a single attack, I did everything at full gas. It was raining, it was cold but I was so determined to win and that was my answer to what had happened yesterday.”
Pinot has a tarot on his arm that says: Solo la vittoria e’ bello (Only victory is beautiful, in Italian). However, he also finds beauty and inspiration in defeat.
“My second place yesterday changed me, it showed I still had the ability to win. It’s a massive, massive relief,” he said.
“This is a very important win in my career. It’s an unforgettable day. I’ve worked so hard but failed to win for so long. The Tour of the Alps is my favourite race but I’ve had a hard period and to win - it was a crazy day."
“It wasn’t so easy. I did the whole stage with a broken spoke and also had a mechanical problem, so it was very stressful. It was a real relief to get to the finish line in first place."
Pinot will not ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège or the rapidly-approaching Giro d’Italia but he will be in action and motivated for more success in next week’s Tour de Romandie.
“I’m hoping I’ll do some good stages in Romandie, there’s some very nice stages in it," Pinot concluded, "I hope I’ll be up there and can win again."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.
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