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Hope springs eternal for Thibaut Pinot in 2022

Groupama-FDJ star hopeful the worst of his health problems are behind him as he targets a return to grand tours in 2022.

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No rider’s had as rough of a ride as Thibaut Pinot over the past few years.

First, there was heartbreaking abandon on the penultimate day of the 2018 Giro d’Italia and the tearful collapse at the 2019 Tour de France when it appeared he might be in the running for the yellow jersey.

Then there was the opening-stage crash at the 2020 Tour that’s left him hobbled with a lame back.

The 2021 season was largely a washout, but the French star is hopeful the worst is behind him. Speaking to French daily Ouest-France, Pinot is optimistic for 2022.

“I hope to be inflicting the pain on others,” Pinot said in the interview. “I hope to be raising my arms again in victory.”

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For the first time in a decade, Pinot did not race a grand tour in 2021.

Doctors ordered a long resting period, something Pinot said helped revive his health but also was like a long prison term.

“The three months I was away were interminable,” Pinot told Ouest-France. “As a racer, all you want to get is results. You only have one desire — to perform — nothing else.”

‘I’ve been so frustrated’

Who didn't crash on the chaotic opening stage? Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat - Pool/Getty Images
Pinot’s problems worsened with a crash in stage 1 in the 2020 Tour de France. (Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Getty Images-pool)

Pinot said his work on his farm, where he owns various animals, helped distract his attention during his period of forced rest. After pulling plans on the Giro d’Italia, Pinot knew he wouldn’t be racing a grand tour in 2021.

“I’ve been so frustrated with all of this, and I haven’t been able to show what I have under the hood for the past two years,” Pinot said. “I hope I can finally be released.”

Groupama-FDJ officials have yet to map out a racing calendar, but a return to both the Giro and Tour are possible in 2022.

Pinot admitted the pressure got to him, adding that wearing the yellow jersey of the Tour is almost “too big” to truly achieve.

“I was always afraid of letting them down, especially at the Tour,” he said. “I was the leader, and I always wanted to take that role, even in training, to show that I was the boss, to be at 100 percent for all the races.

“When I turned pro, I made a list of things I wanted to achieve, and I’ve come close,” he continued. “I wanted to become the French champion, to win the three grand tours, to win Lombardia, and to wear the pink jersey.

“For me, the yellow jersey was always something too big,” he said. “I stay in the real world, so I always dreamed of wearing the pink jersey at the Giro.”