Thibaut Pinot second again on his last dance Giro d'Italia breakaway

Thibaut Pinot of France and Team Groupama FDJ celebrates at podium as Blue Mountain Jersey winner during the 106th Giro dItalia 2023 Stage 18
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) celebrates on the podium as mountains classification leader during the 106th Giro dItalia 2023 Stage 18 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Thibaut Pinot again finished a frustrated second in a Giro d'Italia stage in Val di Zoldo on Thursday but the anger of his defeat in Crans-Montana was replaced by acceptance that had given his all and raced hard.

He was unable to beat Italian national champion Filippa Zana (Jayco-Alula) in their two-rider sprint after they emerged strongest from the breakaway of the day.

"I launched my sprint a bit too early," Pinot regretted. "But I wasn't the strongest rider in the breakaway. If I was, I'd have gone solo on the final climb."

Pinot was angry after finishing second to Einer Rubio (Movistar) in Crans Montana, venting his frustrations on Alexander Cepada after the EF Education-EasyPost rider had been cagey during the breakaway.

Pinot was calmer on stage 19 but the day ended with yet another placing. He has finished second on five occasions in 2023 and has still to land a victory in his final season.

"Given the circumstances, I'm less disappointed today than I was in Crans-Montana. Zana deserves to win," Pinot conceded.

As a consolation prize, Pinot took back the lead in the King of the Mountains classification and so took the maglia azzurra from Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost). He also jumped up from 13th to seventh in the general classification and is now 4:49 behind race leader Geraint Thomas (Ineos-Grenadiers).

Pinot was hoping to enjoy his final Giro d'Italia. It is the race he loves the most, a tattoo on his arm reading: "Solo la vittoria e' bella' - Only victory is beautiful."

Yet the 2023 Corsa Rosa and the build-up to the race has left Pinot fighting pain, as he did in recent years, due to a back problem. He also had to fight bronchitis in the first half of the race, the illness that forced him out of the 2018 Giro before the final stage.

"There have been really hard days at this Giro, this is why I'm happy to wrap up the race being part of a breakaway," Pinot said, lifted by warmer weather and the sight of the Dolomites on the skyline.

"It was some 'vélo plaisir' -'fun cycling', the kind of stage I love," Pinot said praising his countrymen Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R-Citroën) who were also in the break.

The presence of his family at the finish line in Val di Zoldo also provided some extra motivation and satisfaction.

His mother Marie-Jeanne drove eight hours from the family home region in the Vosges of France and his younger sister Marine came to the Giro from a hotel in Venice to see her brother in action.

Pinot's hopes of a Giro d'Italia stage victory are not over but depend on the outcome of stage 19 to Tre Cime di Lavaredo. He will race to defend the maglia azzurra but knows his chance of a stage victory may have gone.

"It's too early to say if I'm happy with my Giro or not," he said.

"I'll definitely fight to secure the mountains jersey, but I doubt the big leaders will let me try long-range attacks or big breakaways after I've reduced my gap overall. C'est la vie, this is my Giro and I now have to accept whatever it gives me."  

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