The Groupama-FDJ rider placed seventh overall at the Tour de la Provence, which was his first competitive outing since last July. He left the Tour de France with a thigh muscle injury and ultimately opted not to race again in 2019.
Pinot was among the marquee names at the Tour de la Provence but he was unable to follow the relentless pace of Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) on the stage 3 mountain finish at Chalet Reynard, 7km shy of the summit of Mont Ventoux.
The Frenchman placed ninth on the stage, in a chasing group that came home 2:12 behind Quintana, who went on to secure overall victory.
"My first objectives are in March, with Paris-Nice," Pinot said, according to L’Équipe. "There is no need to panic, I need to stay calm and be patient, even if that’s not my strong point. This week, I gave the maximum and I was beaten by stronger riders. I have no regrets."
Pinot struggled with stomach problems on the opening two stages of the race, though he declined to use the issue as an excuse for his showing on Mont Ventoux, where a sparkling Quintana danced clear of a reduced front group with 6km remaining.
On Sunday’s final stage, Pinot led the peloton over the top of the day’s first climb and accelerated on the Côte de la Cride before coming home in the main body of the peloton.
"He needs these efforts to get back to his best level," said Groupama-FDJ directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit.
"It’s going to take a few races to find the Thibaut of last year but, when you look at his values in training, physically he’s there, at the same level as last year."
Twelve months ago, Pinot began his campaign with fourth overall in Provence before he won atop Mont Faron to secure overall victory at the Tour du Haut-Var the following week. The 29-year-old will again line out at the three-stage Tour du Haut-Var, his final test before his Paris-Nice debut next month.
"My ambition will be to do the best possible," Pinot said.
"There’ll be some big leaders there and it will be good to measure myself again. It will be another test. In any case, it’s done me good to come back to competition. You can do any kind of training, but nothing replaces racing."
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