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Pinot targets Tour-Vuelta double as Groupama-FDJ braces for ‘intense’ season

Frenchman to follow light pre-Tour de France schedule to save bullets for challenge at Vuelta a España in fall.

Thibaut Pinot will be doubling up a run at the Tour de France yellow jersey this summer with a challenge for the red version at the fall Vuelta a España.

Groupama-FDJ confirmed race schedules for its major riders Tuesday, and with a full focus on the GC in France via Pinot and wingman David Gaudu, sprinter Arnaud Démare will be left off the Tour start sheet for the second year in a row.

Pinot will follow an all-French pathway to the Tour, starting his season at La Route d’Occitanie August 1 – 4 before finalizing his form at the five-stage Critérium du Dauphiné, August 12 – 16. Rather than following a race-heavy approach to La Grande Boucle, the 30-year-old has opted to sit out the Tour de l’Ain and Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge to save his bullets for the Vuelta, starting October 20.

“It was a lot to double Tour de l’Ain and Dauphiné – two big races … in August, I will try to save myself, avoid unnecessary trips and fatigue,” Pinot told l’Est Républicain. “I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the objective remains the Tour de France. I want to get there fresh, especially if I then continue with a possible Vuelta.”

Pinot will be joined at the Tour by rising star Gaudu, Stefan Küng, Rudy Molard, and Valentin Madouas. Gaudu will also join Pinot in his challenge at the Vuelta later in the year. The densely-packed late-season schedule for 2020 is likely to see many grand tour racers opting for a Tour-Vuelta double given the awkward positioning of the October Giro. Primož Roglič, Enric Mas and Bauke Mollema are also among the riders rumored to be eyeing the 18-day Spanish race as a follow-on from the Tour.

Démare will look to repeat his 2019 success at the Giro. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images.

With Groupama-FDJ sprinter Démare left out of the team’s Tour selection, his season will center on the Giro d’Italia, where he last year took a narrow second place in the sprints competition, netting a stage win and three further trips to the podium in the process. The 28-year-old will battle the likes of Peter Sagan, Caleb Ewan and Dylan Groenewegen in the fight for the ciclamino jersey, October 3 – 25. Démare’s early-season goal will be Milano-Sanremo, August 8, where he scooped a controversy-mired victory in 2016.

While many teams including Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Bora-Hansgrohe began sending their riders to group training camps in the Austrian and Italian mountains through June, Groupama-FDJ is holding back on gathering riders until nearer the start of the season.

“In June, we got back to some individual training camps, sometimes in altitude, as we had to get the big workloads weeks rolling,” explained coach Julien Pinot on the team’s website. “For some teams, training camps are extremely important. For us, considering the way we work with our riders, we believe that it is not necessary to often be in training camp in order to be successful. The collective camps would come in the final phase of preparation, in July, to enable them to get competitive for the races.”

With one month until Pinot and his team take the start line at La Route d’Occitanie, the French squad is revving its engines in preparation for a season that offers no let-up from start to finish.

“Right now, all 28 riders are 100 percent involved in their preparation, training, and recovery, whether they are in training camp or at home,” Pinot said. “We have entered a real season preparation, as we usually experience. It’s like January, but stronger, since we know that the season will be very intense and that all riders must be competitive in August.”