Q&A: Pinot building form into Criterium International

Young French star Thibaut Pinot is aiming to win in his first run at Critérium International with improved TT skills and strong form

After the 2014 Tour de France, it was clear that Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) had arrived. He left the grand tour with the white jersey awarded to the best young rider, and he finished third overall, behind fellow countryman Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) and winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

Now, he looks ahead to the Critérium International, which comprises two stages on Saturday — a flat 92.5km race and a 7km individual time trial — and a hilly 189.5km Sunday stage with a summit finish.

Pinot, 24, is coming off of a fourth-place finish at Tirreno-Adriatico. This will be his first time racing Critérium International.

Thibaut Pinot, you have already put in some impressive results in 2015. Do you feel particularly relaxed at the start of the season?
Thibaut Pinot: Everything has gone well, and I got into competition shape very early. My first important test was Tirreno-Adriatico. I went with the goal of riding in the top-five and finished fourth. It was a little frustrating to finish just off the podium, but I had reason to be pleased. On the Terminillo stage, I stayed with a very good group [sixth on equal time with Contador, Rodriguez, and Uran]. The conditions were very harsh, but they suited me, so it went well.

Q: If we remember, last year, the rider who finished fourth at the Tirreno [Péraud] went on to win the Critérium International. Does this give you any ideas?
TP: Yes, I’m coming to win. This is the first time I am participating in the Critérium International, but it is a race that has history for French riders. It’s always a hard choice to make with the Volta a Catalunya, but I think the route suits me better and it will be possible to put in a good result. … The Critérium International is a race that carries a lot of weight on the calendar.

Q: Do you consider the Porto-Vecchio time trial as a chance to gain experience, as you look to the Tour de France?
TP: I am happy that there will be one. I would‘ve even preferred it be a little longer. It’s in an area where I’ve made good progress and I also want to see if I am capable of confirming.

Q: Nevertheless, the Col de l’Ospedale on the last stage will be the decider. Do you like this scenario?
TP: I know this climb very well, because we trained here three years in a row at Porto-Vecchio with the FDJ team. I’ve ridden [it] several times, so I know it is a fine mountaintop finish. There might not be many chances to pull out big leads, but you can attack. It will all happen in the last three or four kilometers. That’s what I am hoping for, that we have a fast race before the arrival, in a way that can create a small group. Then, you have to be sure not to attack too early … For sure; you’ll have to be on form!