A first crucial test was on the menu for Thibaut Pinot and Lenny Martinez this Friday on the Tour de Romandie, and the duo managed it nicely. In the hilly 19-kilometre time trial in Châtel-Saint-Denis, where the GC contenders were supposed to deliver their first battle, the two Groupama-FDJ riders met the expectations. The young climber even took the day’s sixteenth best time, four seconds ahead of his eldest teammate (18th). The latter now sits sixteenth overall before the queen stage scheduled for Saturday.

The tension increased quite a bit this Friday on Swiss territory. In Châtel-Saint-Denis, over 18 and 750 meters, the favorites were expected on a difficult time trial that could create the first proper damage. “The circuit was far from simple”, introduced Nicolas Boisson, the team’s coach. “The first part was tailwind but with two small hills that broke the pace. The return to join the bottom of the main climb was quite hard too, with hills of 700-800 meters, and also with the headwind. If you did not manage your effort well on this first part, it could then be difficult for the rest of the race. Then, there was the climb: five kilometres at 5%. After, it wasn’t downhill straight away, and it was important to still be able to deliver energy and power on this section. The time trial was almost over 1500 metres after the climb. There was really no more effort to make then. It was really about “piloting” in the downhill, which was very fast with a lot of curves and a really steep finish, where the best could go up to 100 km/h. These are very high speeds with a time trial bike, but luckily the road was dry”.

“It was a good rehearsal for Thibaut”, Nicolas Boisson

The first Groupama-FDJ riders took the start between 2:35 p.m. and 3:47 p.m., while Lenny Martinez and Thibaut Pinot set off just thirteen minutes apart, around 4 p.m. “They were very committed”, said Nicolas. “We know that Thibaut is in his final preparation for the Giro. It is also a time trial that looked like the one he won in the past in Romandie. He wanted to do well, to test himself, given that there will also be three time trials in the Giro. It was a good rehearsal. He was 100% involved. It was the same for Lenny, who was a little disappointed with his prologue. The goal for him was to remotivate himself, on a course that also could suit him better”. From the intermediate checkpoint, located at the top of the climb, both men gave good signs and proved that they were right in the mix. Both were in the provisional top-5 before the downhill. There, Lenny Martinez gained a few more seconds, allowing him to rank third provisionally at the finish. A few minutes later, Thibaut Pinot established the sixth mark on the line. After the last fifty men took the start and covered the route, the two men lost a few positions, but they nevertheless remained in the top-20.

“I am satisfied with my time trial”, Lenny Martinez

Lenny Martinez took sixteenth place thirty-five seconds behind the winner Juan Ayuso, Thibaut Pinot placed 18th at thirty-nine seconds. “It was quite a good time trial,” commented Lenny. “I had good legs, the course was hilly, so it was more to my advantage compared to the prologue. I also did a good downhill, because there was a rider in front of me, and I had to manage it well to pass him. The specific training with La Conti certainly helped (smiles). Anyway, I am satisfied with my time trial”. “It’s better than the prologue, and it’s already reassuring,” explained Thibaut. “I lacked a bit of power on the false flat after the climb. The downhill was not particularly dangerous but descending at 100 km/h with a time trial bike is not my specialty. I did what I could, and let’s say it’s satisfying”. Nicolas Boisson was more convinced: “Both gave their best and there was a great fight between Lenny and Thibaut. It’s a good time trial for them. I think Lenny completely made up for his prologue. It was also his first experience of such a time trial in the WorldTour, and he did very well. Thibaut did not take any risks in the downhill, so it is very promising to see him finish in the top-20”.

On Friday evening, Thibaut Pinot also moved up to sixteenth position in the general classification, one minute behind the new leader Ayuso, while Lenny Martinez is just outside the top-20 (22nd at 1’10”). “It will be tough tomorrow with the queen stage of this Tour de Romandie”, added Nicolas. “With Lenny and Thibaut, and all their teammates by their side, we certainly have the possibility to get a good result and enter the overall top-10. That will really be the goal, and there will definitely be some gaps”. “It’s a great stage, with the rain, three beautiful climbs, and we’ll take stock at the top of Thyon 2000,” added Lenny. “It’s possible to achieve a good stage, and I hope to have good legs”, confirmed Thibaut.

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