Tour de France 2020

Dauphiné: Thibaut Pinot passes Tour de France test atop Col de Porte

The French rider crossed the line eight seconds down on stage-winner Roglič and slotted into second place in the overall.

Thibaut Pinot is finding his climbing legs just in time for the Tour de France.

On Thursday Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) finished second to winner Primož Roglič atop the Col de Porte during Thursday’s second stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné in a crucial test of form before the Tour. Pinot crossed the line eight seconds down on Roglič and slotted into second place in the overall.

“The stage went good, I had good feelings,” Pinto said. “There was just a stronger one today. We must therefore be satisfied with this second place.”

Indeed Pinot survived the early battle on the climb, which saw Team Ineos tap out an aggressive tempo for much of the ascent. Then, inside 2km to the top, American Sepp Kuss of Jumbo-Visma took over, drawing out the favorites for the final battle to the top.

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) was first to attack, followed by Roglič, whose seated acceleration proved to be the winning move. Behind, Frenchman Guillaume Martin (Cofidis Solutions Credits) bolted from the pack and gave chase as Pinot and the other favorites hesitated.

With Roglič powering to victory and Martin surging ahead, Pinot made his move with 400 meters to go. He bolted from the group, dropping Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Quintana, and closed the gap to Martin within sight of the finish. Pinot then continued his acceleration, out of the saddle, to surge past his compatriot just ahead of the line.

“Right now, I think Roglič is better than the rest,” Pinot said. “Behind, we are 10 or so at the same level.”

The result is confirmation that Pinot is attaining his top form just in time for the Tour de France. Doubts swirled around the Frenchman’s form after the recent La Route d’Occitanie race in France. During that race’s decisive stage 4 Pinot was unable to match the pace of Bernal, Ineos teammate Pavel Sivakov, and Aleksandr Vlasov of Astana.

Pinot finished a distant fourth, 31 seconds in arrears.

“Personally, I feel that I made progress since the Route d’Occitanie and that’s what’s important,” Pinot said. “I now have three good days in the mountains to continue doing the best I can.”

Pinot has long been the darling of the French cycling world, and his best finish at the Tour was third place overall in 2014. After several years of dismal performances, in 2019 he appeared to be one of the strongest riders in the race. Pinot won the 14th stage of the 2019 Tour atop the Col du Tourmalet, and the next day he dropped eventual winner Bernal on a punishing Pyrenean stage to Foix.

But disaster struck in the Alps, and Pinot was forced to withdraw on stage 19 due to knee pain.

This year he will again lead Goupama-FDJ at the Tour, where the climb-heavy course appears custom built for his strengths.

Pinto’s result on Thursday capped off an impressive stage for the French Groupama-FDJ team. Bruno Armirail spent much of the stage in the day’s breakaway, riding to take the pressure off of the squad. Then, Pinot’s top lieutenant Sebastian Reichenbach climbed to 12th place overall, 0:59 down.

Philippe Mauduit, sport director for Groupama-FDJ, said the squad will take a conservative approach into the race’s next three stages.

“We need to be careful and not get too enthusiastic,” Mauduit said. “It’s good to see the boys doing what they did yesterday and today, but we remain focused and the most important is to keep working, and working well.”