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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (VN) – At the start of stage 8 of the Tour de France in Dole, Thibaut Pinot was the most popular French rider in town.
He was followed by cheers and shouts as he pedaled to the sign-on podium, 100 kilometers south of his hometown.
Little did he know that things were about to get a heck of a lot worse. Five hours later, he was describing it as a “bad day from start to finish.”
First off, he didn’t race as he’d hoped or make the breakaway.
“I didn’t have good legs, it happens, I hope to have better days,” he said afterward.
A fist in the face
He caught the eye for very different reasons on the road to Lausanne. Pinot crashed with around 40 kilometers to go.
As he chased back on at the back of the peloton, the Groupama-FDJ rider was forced to stop again in the feed zone in a bizarre incident.
He was struck in the face by a musette being held out by a Trek-Segafredo soigneur.
It knocked off his sunglasses and he briefly stopped. “I was in the heat of the action and took a fist to my face,” he said.
“It happened right in front of me, I couldn’t avoid it. There are no real marks [on me], but I had to chase hard to get back into the bunch. It was really a bad day from start to finish.”
— RoisDeLaPedale (@RoisDeLaPedale) July 9, 2022
Between the sublime and the ridiculous
You couldn’t make it up. That’s part of his appeal, his essence: things either seem to go very well or appallingly for the French darling, with little in between.
Crack climber Pinot, whose best Tour finish is third in 2014, has spent the last two seasons battling injury problems.
The mess with the musette compounds a frustrating start to his Tour de France. He fell ill eight days before the Tour de France with COVID-19. Having had designs on joint team leadership with David Gaudu, he informed the team before the race it was better to go with the young Frenchman.
He could not show himself strongly on his home stage to La Super Planche des Belles Filles, either, finishing 31st.
A crash for Gaudu
It was a rough day for Groupama-FDJ, as Gaudu also crashed early on the stage, fortunately without any ill effect or time loss.
He remains the best-placed French rider in the face, fifth overall, 1:35 behind leader Pogačar.
Pinot, meanwhile, is 10:09 down, which should give him freedom to get up the road. “I’m looking forward to getting into the Alps and refinding my best legs,” he said.
Given his career of soaring highs and crushing lows, a stage victory this year would be a fitting turnaround that burnishes Pinot’s immense popularity in his home country. After taking a fist in the face, that’s his way of hitting back.