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Where’s Thibaut Pinot? Marc Madiot optimistic French star will race 2022 Tour de France

Groupama-FDJ boss says he's hopeful Thibaut Pinot is ready for Tour de France return, but questions the presence of cobblestones in the route.

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Where’s Thibaut Pinot?

The French star wasn’t at last week’s Tour de France course presentation Thursday in Paris, but Groupama-FDJ boss Marc Madiot is optimistic his erstwhile captain will line up for the 109th edition.

“There’s a good chance that if things go well, he will be at the start of the Tour,” Madiot told RMC French radio. “He had a race bib on his back a few days ago, and he will have one again [last] weekend. So we will digest the season, and take a closer look at the course, because you always have to be wary of the first impression and euphoria.”

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On paper, the explosive and varied route could be ideal for Pinot, but the French GC hope, who will be 32 at the start of next year’s Tour, is coming off a delicate season with nagging questions about his back.

Will he make a return to the Tour de France? One thing Pinot doesn’t like is pressure.

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 – Pool)

A solid return bodes well for 2022 Tour de France

Pinot pulled out of the 2019 Tour in tears when it appeared a podium or perhaps even victory might have been within his grasp. In 2020, he managed to ride to 29th in Paris, but a crash in the opening stage complicated his race.

Rather than abandon in 2020, Pinot doggedly pushed on. That only seemed to exacerbate his health issues, and by the spring of 2021, Pinot was a mess, and he pulled out of a planned assault on the Giro d’Italia in May.

Also read: Pinot abandons 2019 Tour de France in tears

He only returned to racing in August and managed to quietly finish off the 2021 season a string of promising top-10s, including fifth at Coppa Bernocchi and seventh overall at the Tour of Luxembourg.

“He was at the front playing for the podium,” said Groupama-FDJ sport director Sebastian Joly at Bernocchi. “That’s a good sign that he can stay with the best.”

Writing in a post on social media this summer, Pinot explained how nagging back pain led to a litany of other structural issues that all but derailed his 2021 season.

To continue pedaling in recent months, I had to compensate by soliciting other muscles to relieve my back, which led to pain in the hip, lumbar, gluteal muscles,” Pinot said.

After three weeks of complete rest, Pinot underwent physical therapy for six weeks, and slowly began to incorporate riding into his program, with a two-hour morning ride, followed by sessions.

Things improved enough for Pinto to return to racing in August, and he put in 22 days of racing, capping it off with Il Lombardia earlier this month, where he crossed the line 50th, though still far from his winning form in 2018.

Madiot on cobbles in Tour de France: ‘Everyone races on the defensive’

When asked about the inclusion of the cobbles in the 2022 Tour route, Madiot has his reservations.

Madiot — who won Paris-Roubaix twice during his racing career — said he doesn’t believe the punishing pavé brings much to the Tour.

Also read: Lefevere doesn’t like cobbles in Tour

Agreeing with Deceuninck-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere, who also said he doesn’t like to see the cobbles in the Tour, Madiot said it’s too dangerous and costly for teams during the Tour.

“I’m divided by the question,” he told French radio. “It’s fine on paper, but out on the course … you see the big teams riding with their hands on brakes. Everyone rides together to protect their leader in order to avoid losing time or crashing on such a stage, racing on the defensive.”