Watching Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) at the start of a stage at the Tour de France is like watching a movie star. A podium finisher at the 2014 edition, he breaths confidence. Pinot sports fancy glasses, jokes around with whoever crosses his path and has a good chat. He had a flawless season so far with several good results. A week into the Tour de France and it's clear Pinot is happy with how things are unfolding for him.
Cyclingnews asked the 26-year-old on Thursday morning how he looked back on the first week of the Tour at the start of stage 6 in sunny Arpajon-sur-Cère. "After five days I'm within a few seconds from the leaders. That's good. I didn't crash, didn't take risks and without major fatigue. It's going very well right now," Pinot said.
Wednesday's stage into the Massif Central proved not to be like a stroll in the park, with Pinot spotted near the back of the rather small peloton with favourites on the final climbs of the stage. The pace set by the Movistar team on the undulating roads in the Cantal region clearly caused damage in the peloton.
"Ça va, on vera, we'll see. It was hard, it went fast, it was warm. It was a hard stage for everybody. I'm confident. Quite often these medium mountain stages are harder than the high mountain stages because the climbs are irregularly. The stages in the Vosges two years ago created a lot of gaps. It's a pity that we're not profiting more from this ‘intermediate Massif' more often. It would make for more racing and less longer stages. There's been a few ugly stages," Pinto probably referred to the two long stages to Angers and Limoges.
Starting on Friday the race hits the mountains, with the Pyrenees up first. Friday's stage features the famous Col d'Aspin. Pinot wasn't impressed. "It's a very famous climb in the Pyrenees at the end of the stage, with a descent after it to the finish. I think that the Louron [Saturday] will hurt more than the Aspin because the Aspin is quite a regular climb. I think the big test will be mostly on Sunday. Tomorrow I expect to see the same like yesterday. Movistar will set a very high pace. The breakaway will likely make it to the finish again. I don't expect attacks from the big favourites."
Pinot is known to fear the descents and he explained there's not much use to have teammates around, as he descends better alone than being on the wheels. Friday, after cresting the top of the Col d'Aspin there's seven more kilometres left, descending towards the finish town of Lac de Payole. It's one of several stages that finishes in the valley, and it's not to his liking.
"It's something I don't prefer because my quality of descending isn't my strongest point. It certainly favours certain riders like Barguil and Bardet, who descend very well. My tactic is to plan my own finish at the top of the climb. I will give everything on the climb. There are two finishes like that at 15 kilometres," Pinot said.
Pinot seemed very confident that he would be able to reduce the damages while biding his moment to gain time on his rivals.
"For me, it's about the mountaintop finishes and the time trials. The cards in the Tour de France will be shuffled the 14th on the Ventoux and the 15th with the chrono of 40 kilometres. Those two days will change a lot for the general classification."
For now, Pinot kicks off the first mountain stage in 20th position at 5:28 behind overall leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). Pinot is 11 seconds down on last year's Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Sky).
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