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ASIAGO, Italy (AFP) — Frenchman Thibaut Pinot’s impressive Giro d’Italia campaign has been “rosy,” but the FDJ team leader hasn’t given up on a last-gasp bid on Sunday that could see him snatch the pink jersey.
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“I knew the Giro was a race that suited me, so I’d be delighted to come back. Everything’s been rosy so far,” Pinot said. He claimed his maiden win on the three-week race following a 190km ride from Pordenone to Asiago on Saturday.
“I hope to be on the podium, but for overall victory, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Pinot becomes the first Frenchman to win a mountain stage at the Giro since Charly Mottet triumphed atop Pordoi on June 2, 1990, only four days after he was born.
And on the eve of the 100th edition’s finale, he is still among four that are contention for a prestigious, and dramatic overall win when the race concludes with a final stage time trial over 29.3 km on Sunday.
Italy’s two-time and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (at 39 seconds), Pinot (43 seconds) and Tom Dumoulin (53 seconds) are all within one minute of Colombian Nairo Quintana. The Movistar leader is looking for his second victory after his maiden Giro triumph in 2014.
Dumoulin crushed the field in the stage 10 time trial to take command of the race before losing the pink jersey on Friday. He is the big favorite on paper. If successful, he will become the race’s first Dutch champion.
But Pinot, the French national time trial champion, hasn’t given up hope of emulating American Greg LeMond’s exploit at the 1989 Tour de France.
LeMond won by just eight seconds after overtaking Laurent Fignon, the last Frenchman to win the Giro in 1989 and a two-time Tour de France champion, in a dramatic final time-trial stage.
Probed on his victory chances, Pinot added: “There are five of us fighting for three podium spots. But the victory favorite for me is Tom Dumoulin.
“In second? I hope me. And third, whoever wants to finish third!”
Pinot underlined his potential as a future Tour de France contender when he finished third on the 2014 race behind winner Nibali and compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud.
It was the first time that two Frenchman stood on the podium of ‘La Grande Boucle’ since since Fignon and Bernard Hinault, as runner-up, completed a one-two at the 1984 Tour.
By then Pinot had already won a prestigious mountain stage of the race, in 2012. On his debut, aged 22 and 54 days, he became the youngest rider since Raymond Impanis in 1947 to finish in the top 10.
A second Tour stage win came in 2015 when Pinot, after a solo attack, conquered Alpe d’Huez.
Given he finished 2:42 behind Dumoulin on stage 10, victory on Sunday remains a long shot for Pinot.
But for the Frenchman, his maiden Giro campaign is already a success. “For me, the most important thing was to lift my arms in victory. I knew at the start there were stronger riders than me,” he added. “I came to win a stage and try for the podium, so it’s already a success. But we’ve got 30km remaining, and I don’t want to have any regrets when we finish tomorrow [Sunday].”