Thibaut Pinot decision to come ‘within 48 hours’ on Giro d’Italia start

Groupama-FDJ to decide whether or not Thibaut Pinot will race the Giro d'Italia next month.

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Thibaut Pinot remains stuck in third gear so far in 2021, and a lackluster performance this week is casting doubt on his participation at the Giro d’Italia next month.

The French star continues to struggle with back pain, and despite riding into the winning breakaway Friday in the final stage at the Tour of the Alps, a planned start next month at the Giro remains uncertain.

“The team is meeting within the next 48 hours to make a decision,” a Groupama-FDJ team official told VeloNews. “The back problems are persistent, and are posing a real threat to his participation for the Giro.”

Pinot lamented his performance during the five-day Tour of the Alps, an important test ahead of the Giro, and said his legs ran out of gas after three hours of racing.

“Catastrophic,” is how Pinot described his week when asked by L’Equipe TV on Friday. “The results are catastrophic. There is not much positive about this week. It’s complicated to be at this level.”

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The 30-year-old rode into the day’s winning breakaway Friday, but could not match the pace when Felix Großschartner attacked out of the group with less than 20km to go. Pinot could not answer, and drifted across the line in 34th at 3:14 back.

“I’m happy with the first three quarters of my race, but I was missing a quarter,”Pinot said. “It’s nice to have been able to race hard today, but it’s frustrating not to be able to play for more, especially when you see that the breakaway goes to the end.”

What’s happening?

The Tour de France podium finisher blames his back.

“It felt good not to be in the peloton and to get some fresh air. I took pleasure at the front of the race,” Pinot said of the breakaway effort. “Then, unfortunately, I was caught up at some point by my back problems, which made it too painful to force the pedals … It’s a bit like every other day; the more the kilometers go by, the less there is.”

Pinot’s back problems date back to his tearful exit at the 2019 Tour de France. A crash in the opening stage of the 2020 Tour only served to further complicate his delicate health.

Team officials at Groupama-FDJ were hopeful that the worse of the problems were behind him, but this week’s uneven performance raises further questions just days ahead of a planned Giro start.

Following a string of frustrating Tours, Pinot was hoping to hit the re-set button this season, and place the Giro at the center of his ambitions.

Now those plans could be scuttled by the nagging pain and inability to deliver in the decisive moments of racing.

It’s too early to say if Pinot might pivot to the Tour de France if he does not race the Giro.

“I will only go to the Giro if I am 100 percent,” Pinot told La Châine. “There is not much positive about this week. After three hours, it’s complicated for me on the bike.”

Unfortunately for Pinot, most stages at the Giro are longer than three hours long.

Who didn't crash on the chaotic opening stage? Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat - Pool/Getty Images
Who didn’t crash on the chaotic opening stage? Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat – Pool/Getty Images.