Thibaut Pinot's hopes of a stage win and the overall lead in the Giro d'Italia crumpled badly in Tuesday's time trial stage through the vineyards of the Sagrantino, as the FDJ rider's below-expectations 19th place saw him fall back from second to fourth overall.
The reigning French national time trial champion, who blamed his poor performance on the rest day, said after stage 10 that he had simply never felt good during the Giro time trial.
"With a rest day, ça passe ou ça casse," said Pinot, using the French expression to mean it's either double or quits, something that boosts your chances or a setback. But despite a fast start, the Frenchman ended up gaining a paltry 11 seconds on Quintana. Even without Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) taking over 2:30 on both of them, such a minimal gain would not have allowed the FDJ racer to move into pink from a starting point of 28 seconds down on Quintana.
As a result of his underwhelming performance, Pinot now sits in fourth position overall, seven seconds ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and 17 down on Quintana, as well as 2:40 down on Dumoulin. Despite a big improvement in time trialling last year, Pinot will have to exploit his best-known talent, climbing, if he wants to get back into the GC battle.
"It wasn't at all easy," Pinot said as he wheeled to a halt after the finish line. "I just didn't feel good, couldn't get a good pace going at any point. I don't know what my times are yet, but I know it was a very average performance."
Although normally affected by the heat, Pinot said the very warm weather on Tuesday had not been a problem. In any case, he could tell early in his effort that things weren't going well, saying afterwards, "I knew from the start that it wasn't going to work out, it ended up feeling like a very long time trial."
Pinot can draw some consolation that if his time trialling is not going as well as he had hoped, then his performance in the mountains is much more satisfactory up to now in the Giro. Second on the Blockhaus climb at 24 seconds, on Saturday at Oropa, he'll have his first big chance to bounce back.
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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