Vuelta a Espana

Thibaut Pinot targets rainbow jersey on hilly Innsbruck course

The Frenchman said he is using the Vuelta as a springboard to getting into top form for the worlds road race.

MADRID (AFP) — French cycling star Thibaut Pinot has staked his claim for the prestigious world champion’s rainbow jersey on what will be an enticing road race route for the climbing specialists.

Pinot, who rides for the Groupama-FDJ team, has tried but failed to live up to fans’ expectations of him becoming the first French winner of the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault, in 1985.

But this year’s road race championships in Innsbruck, Austria will be held on a tough, hilly course that will have the peloton’s climbing specialists champing at the bit.

It should rule out the likes of Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, who has won the event the past three years.

For Pinot, it presents a unique opportunity that would also make amends for a disappointing season that saw him pull out of both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.

“Such a difficult world championships are unique and only come around once in a lifetime,” Pinot told AFP Monday during the Vuelta a Espana’s rest day.

“It suits me well, so it’s up to me to try and take the opportunity and make sure I have the legs for it.

“I’ve always said [the rainbow jersey] is the most beautiful jersey in cycling, even better than the yellow jersey!”

Pinot is one of many cyclists competing at the Vuelta in a bid to hit peak form for the worlds.

The men’s road race, held on a hilly circuit for a total distance of 258.5 kilometers, is scheduled for September 30.

Before then, Pinot hopes to add a Vuelta stage win to go along with the two he has won at the Tour de France and his sole victory at the Giro d’Italia.

“I want to win a stage on all three [grand] tours. For my confidence, winning a stage heading into the world championships and before the Tour of Lombardy would be perfect,” said Pinot.

The Tour of Lombardy, also known as Il Lombardia, is the final one-day classic of the European season and will be held October 13.