Thibaut Pinot's hopes of a third top-ten finish at the Tour de France were all but extinguished on Saturday as the FDJ rider rolled over the line in Bagnères-de-Luchon in 51st place, 16:19 minutes down on stage winner and new yellow jersey Chris Froome (Team Sky).
"He lost the Tour, the Top 5 is over," Pinot's brother and coach Julien told L'Équipe.
However, the third place finisher from 2014 and two-time Tour stage winner bounced back from a disappointing stage 6 as he jumped on Arnold Jeannesson's (Cofidis) wheel on the lower slopes of the Col du Tourmalet, before being joined by Tinkoff’s Rafa Majka and Etixx-QuickStep's Tony Martin.
Pinot and Majka worked together on the 19km climb with the 26-year-old leading on approach to the top of the Tourmalet where 25 KOM points and the Souvenir Jacques Goddet was awaiting the first rider. Inside the final few 100 metres of the climb, Majka jumped around Pinot before the Frenchman countered to take the €5,000 prize purse and move into the virtual KOM lead.
"I rode away up the Tourmalet because I wanted to fight. I haven't had enough freedom to gain time and it didn't work out but there'll be other occasions. I can do it again tomorrow," said Pinot after the stage.
The duo forged on together with Martin, who re-joined them on the descent off the Tourmalet, with Pinot taking the maximum KOM points at the Category 2 Hourquette d'Ancizan. With Team Sky and Movistar pushing the pace in pursuit of the leading trio, Pinot was caught and swallowed up before the ascent of the Category 1 Col de Val Louron-Azet where Wout Poels and Froome took the maximum points but Majka managed to snare third and move into the KOM lead.
Post-stage, Majka explained that a second KOM jersey isn't his goal for this year's race while Pinot, who was awarded the most combative award, announced his intention to chase the polka dot jersey and become the first Frenchman since Thomas Voeckler in 2012 to claim the classification.
"The Tour is only starting now, with great climbs coming up. That's normally where I start enjoying cycling. The polka dot jersey can become a new goal. We'll discuss it with the team."
Pinot finished top-five in his first six stage races of the season, including several stage wins and the Critérium International, before an underwhelming 16th place at the Criterium du Dauphiné. Pinot, who won the final stage of the Dauphine, looked to have recovered with victory in the French time trial titles the weekend before the Tour Grand Depart but finds himself on the back foot at the Tour for the second year in a row.
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