The Frenchman was caught out in a madcap final stage of the five-day race Sunday, and with it, the opportunity to take the biggest GC victory of his career and the benefit from a major pre-Tour de France psychological boost slipped through his fingers.
“I failed to achieve the goal we set ourselves this morning,” Pinot said. “I have nothing but disappointment. I didn’t have the legs, I didn’t do the right thing to win. I can only blame myself.”
The 30-year old-started the stage as the new race leader after Primož Roglič’s late withdrawal, with six riders hot on his heels within 31 seconds of him in the standings.
Having fought his way into the main GC group that formed early in Sunday’s aggressive day of racing, it was all going well for the Groupama-FDJ captain until a powerful group including stage winner Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and eventual GC winner Daniel Martínez (EF Pro Cycling) attacked off the front in the final 30 kilometers.
“I used a lot of bullets at the start of the stage. That’s what I missed at the end,” Pinot said. I thought that I had good legs, that I was not too bad … But when they [Kuss, Martínez, etc.] attacked from the start of the Domancy climb, I couldn’t respond … I was pissed off at myself.”
Pinot drove the splintering chase group behind, looking to fellow Frenchmen Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) for support. While his countrymen gave him their best, Pinot was left to tow the chasers in pursuit of Martínez, who was forging a big enough gap to seal the overall race victory.
“I gave everything I had. I have rarely finished a stage so tired,” Pinot said after his madcap chase proved futile. He was left to take seventh on the stage, 35 seconds down on his Colombian rival Martínez.
While Pinot may not have ended the day in the Dauphiné’s yellow jersey, he took solace in his wider performance, which saw him move into second overall on the major mountain test of stage 2 and stay there through to the podium in Megève.
“Yes, my condition is good,” he said. “You can’t finish second in such a tough race without feeling good. But I was missing something to win and in the end, what I remember is that I didn’t have the legs to win this Dauphiné.”
Pinot was not the only Tour de France contender to come away from last week’s race with mixed feelings. When the final stage of the race Sunday hotted up, two of the Tour’s outside favorites – Mikel Landa (Baharan-McLaren) and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) both found themselves off the back surprisingly early.
The Spaniard limped home 20 minutes down, while Quintana abandoned, still feeling the repercussions of a crash while training in Colombia last month.
“My legs were good, but I had a lot of pain in my knee, the one that was injured when I got hooked in training in early July,” Quintana said after the stage. “I preferred to give up on this last stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné with a view to the Tour de France.”
Landa was also suffering niggles through the stage, though remains optimistic for his challenge at the head of his team at the Tour later this month.
“It was a very complicated stage, it rolled very hard from the start,” Landa said. “After the second climb, I started to have a sore back. It got worse and I finally let go. It was five rather difficult days, and I think we will arrive in very good shape in the Tour de France.”