REGGIO EMILIA, Italy (VN) — Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) may not have the press of race leader Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) or Giro d’Italia favorite Nairo Quintana (Movistar), but he is worrying all the same.
The Frenchman, after honing his skills in the Tour de France, seems to have the pieces in place for a run at the Giro’s spiral trophy over the next week and a half to Milan.
“Pinot worries me the most,” Dumoulin said. “He’s strong on the climbs and can time trial.”
Dumoulin leads the race by 2:23 over Colombian Quintana and 2:38 over Pinot. The FDJ leader suffered a bit more than he had planned in the Sagrantino time trial Tuesday, otherwise the gap would be smaller.
In 2016, Pinot beat Dumoulin to win the Tour de Romandie time trial. Last year, he raced the Tour de France and won the Critérium International overall, as well as a stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
The Tour de France had been Pinot’s stomping ground since a 10th place in his 2012 debut. And in 2014, he placed third. Last year, he abandoned with bronchitis and reconsidered his plans.
“This comes after my last two Tour failures,” Pinot said. “But already, I was thinking about racing the Giro in 2016. This is the 100th Tour, I had to be here.”
He is the most unassuming Giro contender, however. The 26-year-old is probably the only one who did not bother to preview the stages. He would even say that he prefers to be fishing at home in Mélisey, in the Vosges mountains.
“But no, I haven’t seen them,” he explained. “My teammates have, so that’s enough. They explain to me how the stages go.”
His heart beats strongly for the Oropa stage this Saturday, the next summit finish and classification test in the Giro d’Italia. “Marco Pantani is on my mind,” explained Pinot, who knows every cycling story as if they were required reading at school.
The signs that Pinot would potentially dominate the Giro d’Italia were there this spring. Outside France, however, few followers took note. He won a stage and placed third in the Ruta del Sol, third overall in Tirreno-Adriatico and second behind Geraint Thomas (Sky) in the Tour of the Alps (formerly the Giro del Trentino).
“Thibaut Pinot is a serious rival for us,” said Movistar sports director José Luis Arrieta. “He’s been riding for the GC for a few years now, so he’s serious and has experience. We need to keep him under control.
“He is strongest on the mountains, stronger than Nairo in the time trials. We need to make sure that we have enough time over him for the final time trial. I’m not sure how much, maybe around one minute. Behind Dumoulin, we keep an eye on Pinot as we would on two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali.”
“I consider Movistar the most,” Dumoulin’s sports director Aike Visbeek explained. “However, both Pinot and Quintana are dangerous. Pinot is a very good climber, a punchy one, and he can do a good time trial.
“You know, maybe he’d only have one strong grand tour in the past, and he always focused on the Tour, with so much pressure and stress, especially for a Frenchman. In the Giro, he is serious and team FDJ is putting all of its weight behind him.”