Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) cut a surprisingly downbeat and almost self-critical figure after the Giro d'Italia's opening time trial in Jerusalem, saying that he thought that he could have achieved more.
Pinot has a mixed series of results as a time triallist in the past, with the highpoints against the clock both coming in 2016 when he was proclaimed French National TT champion and winner of a a medium-length hilly time trial in the Tour de Romandie in his palmares.
But just to take the Frenchman's last two Grand Tour participations, in the Giro d'Italia's critical mid-race TT last year, Pinot finished a whopping 2:42 down on Friday's winner, Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), before crossing the line in 28th place in the Giro's final TT in Milan. As for the 2017 Tour de France, Pinot claimed an equally low-key 60th in the opening TT stage in Dusseldorf.
In Jerusalem, Pinot finished 16th, 32 seconds down on Dumoulin, following what was not his greatest performance, but which could hardly be described as a stinging defeat, either - particularly as he was six seconds ahead of Chris Froome (Team Sky).
"It didn't go as I wanted it to," Pinot insisted. "It's my first time trial of the year and I suffered a lot with the heat, which is always my big enemy. I'lll just try and get through the next few stages as best I can."
Pinot has beaten Froome in a Grand Tour opening time trial in the past. in the opening TT of the 2015 Tour de France at Utrecht, when Froome was also basing his strategy around a strong mountains performance, the Frenchman actually put more time into the Briton: nine seconds as opposed to six seconds in Jerusalem
For whatever reason, although Pinot hardly exuded optimism, his Groupama-FDJ squad were convinced this was far from a poor result.
"It was perfectly acceptable," team manager Marc Madiot told Cyclingnews shortly before Dumoulin rode across the line to reclaim his pink jersey.
"Thibaut's done better than some GC riders, worse than others. The course was a very demanding one, not really one for him, but he's done absolutely fine.
"Thirty seconds lost to Rohan Dennis [BMC Racing, in the lead at the time -Ed.] is not that much. We can't complain. He's in the game, we'll go with that, no problem." Asked if Pinot was now waiting for the Etna to show his hand, Madiot replied, "we're just waiting to get through each day."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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