Thibaut Pinot has said he would like to take the polka dot jersey at this summer’s Tour de France, while remaining unsure of whether he will be able to compete for the general classification.
The Frenchman recently recorded his first victory in triumphant fashion at the Tour of the Alps, breaking a three-year winless period for the 31-year-old.
“It was very hard mentally, long, especially because you can’t see the end of the tunnel,” Pinot told AFP about the journey back from a couple of seasons plagued by injury following his fall at the 2020 French Grand Tour.
“We know the date of the fall [when he got injured], but we never knew when I was going to be healed. The endpoint, the exit from that tunnel, was the victory in the Tour of the Alps.”
A confidence we haven’t heard from Pinot in a while, and so with this summer’s Tour de France fast approaching, the Groupama-FDJ rider is busy setting some goals for three weeks of racing around his home country.
“A victory on the Tour is always beautiful,” Pinot said, having last won a stage in 2019. “I’ve never won the top climber’s jersey. I’ve dreamed of this jersey since I was a child.”
There is still a lot of work to do between now and the Grand Départ in Copenhagen. Pinot is uneasy at the prospect of another crash, and at a race as hectic at the Tour it takes a lot of mental strength to battle through three weeks of hard racing.
“It’s not the mountains that scare me, I still have a lot of apprehension because of the fall,” Pinot divulged.
“You have to be careful. I’m not yet mentally ready to fight for three weeks. I don’t want to relive what I’ve been through so much that I’m taking even fewer risks than before.”
But the signs from the Tour of the Alps indicated that Pinot is back. How close is he to his 2019 Tour form? The climber awaits the Tour de Suisse next month to find out more.
“The Tour of Switzerland will give me a lot of answers,” he said. “Physically, I expected some [answers] from the Tour of the Alps and the Tour of Romandie, I got them.”
Only then will he know whether he has a place amongst the likes of Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), who have burst onto the scene and dominated Grand Tour racing since the last time Pinot was at the peak of his powers.
“It remains to be seen whether I am able to find my place at the head of the peloton and rub shoulders with the others,” he admitted.
“We saw last year Roglič fell. In 2014, Froome also fell. This is what is a bit complicated to manage on the Tour. You have more chances of falling in the first week than in the Giro or the Vuelta. Pogačar and Roglič are almost 100 percent unbeatable and problem-free.”
“But there is still a place on the podium and it is within the reach of many.”
Pinot isn’t counting himself out just yet.