Sure, Team Ineos was strong in the aggressive final 30 kilometers—but it was Pinot and his Groupama-FDJ team that is to blame for the setback, he said.
“It’s not them who gained 1:40, it’s us who lost 1:40,” Pinot said. “That’s hard.
“I know I have the legs, I have a bit of anger about what happened yesterday,” he added.
Pinot was one of several GC stars to be blown out of the peloton during the fast and furious final 30 kilometers of Monday’s stage to Albi. On paper, the flat stage appeared somewhat innocuous. However the peloton was shredded when Team Ineos, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Deceuninck-Quick Step upped the tempo along a section of road that was buffeted by crosswinds.
Strong riders were spat out of the bunch as the peloton shattered into echelons. Pinot was perhaps the biggest victim of the aggressive riding: he tumbled from third place overall—53 seconds behind leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step)—to 11th place overall, 2:33 down.
He now sits 1:21 behind defending champion Geraint Thomas.
“There was a lot of anger and a lot of frustration because we didn’t deserve that,” Pinot said. “It was hard to accept. That’s what’s hard.”
Pinot said the mixture of fast pace and tired legs contributed to the disaster. Once a small gap opened up on a short incline, the peloton was simply unable to come back together.
“Everybody was tired. Yesterday was a very demanding stage, it was a fight for position for 200k,” he said. “Everybody wanted to be in the top 30 or 40 positions. It was going so fast that it was very difficult to close the 5-second gap, and then over the top of the false flat, it was finished.”
Pinot is still upbeat, however, because he has been riding well on the climbs, and there are many mountains to come. He showed glimmers of greatness on the final ascent of La Planche des Belles Filles on stage 6. Two days later, Pinot attacked alongside Alaphilippe on a punchy hill into Saint-Étienne and gained valuable time on Thomas.
“It’s a disappointment and a frustration, I won’t hide that, but that can be a strength too,” Pinot said. “The morning of the time trial, I’ll think about that and on the Tourmalet stage too. Nothing is done, but we’ve lost 1:40 to some good riders and the level at the Tour is very high.”
Pinot referenced the punishing climbs in this Tour’s second and third weeks as opportunities for him to gain time back. The Tour heads into the Pyrenees on Thursday, before the individual time trial on Friday.
Saturday’s stage finishes atop the Col du Tourmalet.
“There are three big days in a row, there’s the time trial, the Tourmalet and the stage to Foix,” Pinot said. “Those are three stages where a lot can happen. We know the Tourmalet, it’s a summit finish, it will hurt. I hope to have the legs that can allow me to take back time.”
Beside Pinot, the Groupama-FDJ team boss Marc Madiot listened. Madiot said he had read reports in the media that said Pinot’s tour may be in peril.
“When I read the newspapers this morning and looking at various cycling websites, I had the impression that were preparing for a burial, but I can assure you that we are very much alive,” Madiot said. “If we were in a football match, we’d say we were at half-time and the score was 1-0. 1-0 is not a defeat. It’s not the end of the match. We have numerous examples in sport. It’s never over.”
Team Ineos, which won the race six times in the last seven years, is up one with 10 stages to race by Madiot’s scoring. Pinot welcomes the mountains to come to see if Ineos is as strong as before even though they are without Chris Froome this year.
“For now, we’ve seen that collectively and on the flat they’ve very strong, they’re the best team. But on La Planche des Belles, we had no reason to envy Ineos and that’s something that gives us confidence for what’s to come,” Pinot explained.
“We’ll start to see on Thursday and certainly on the Tourmalet on Saturday, where I think they’ll try to impose their rhythm, and that’s where we’ll see if they’re as strong as in other years.”