After enjoying quite a support at the start of the second stage of the Tour de Romandie, which was given in his home region, Thibaut Pinot also showed himself in the final on Thursday. Towards La Chaux-de-Fonds, the French climber first followed the solid pace of the bunch before trying a move with three kilometres to go. Chased down almost immediately, he did not insist and eventually finished the stage in a bunch of sixty riders, together with Lenny Martinez.
Just ten days after his last visit on his local roads, during the three days of racing in Franche-Comté, Thibaut Pinot was already back in front of his public on Thursday, on the Tour de Romandie. In a second stage designed through France and Switzerland, the bunch was set to start from Morteau, where a large crowd also waited for the French climber. “There were a lot of people”, he claimed afterwards. “I was really pleasantly surprised by this enthusiasm. I did not expect to see so many people at the start in Morteau. It was really nice. There were also lots of cheers, signs, and flags by the side of the road. It was a continuation of what I experienced ten days ago”. After this nice welcome, the start proved relatively hard since it took more than twenty kilometres for the break to establish itself. Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Tom Bohli (Tudor) and Gleb Brussenkiy (Astana Qazaqstan Team) managed to open a gap and then take a maximum lead of five minutes. However, the pace increased in the peloton from the Basset climb, eighty kilometres from the finish, and the race never eased down afterwards. The riders crossed the finish line twice, then climbed the Col de la Vue des Alpes before heading to the Col de la Tourne (4.4 km at 7%), located about thirty kilometres from the line.
“I wanted to test myself”, Thibaut Pinot
Lewis Askey positioned his teammates before this decisive climb, where the breakaway was caught and where a large selection occurred. At the top, Groupama-FDJ still had five men including their leaders Thibaut Pinot and Lenny Martinez. In the following climb of Le Communal (1.7 km at 7%), located about ten terminals from the line, other attacks led to more riders being dropped. “The day’s goal was to not lose time, but we almost had a bad surprise because they weren’t in a very good position in the penultimate climb,” explained Jussi Veikkanen. “They had to make a big effort to close the splits, especially Lenny”. As for Reuben Thompson, he came back in the downhill and the final one-kilometre ramp averaging 6%, with six kilometres to go, did not prove enough to create more damage, despite new offensives. When the road got flat again, Thibaut Pinot repositioned himself at the front of the bunch before giving it a go. “It was hard and hilly, but not hard enough for us,” he explained. “I wanted to test myself in the final, to see where I was. It was a little better than yesterday, that’s reassuring.” The small bunch finally remained together until the line, where Ethan Hayter raised his arms after a sprint. “David got a decent result here a few years ago, we wanted to take it as an inspiration, we knew the stage perfectly, but there were perhaps a bit more riders than we expected at the finish”, said Jussi.
Thibaut Pinot and Lenny Martinez finished in a bunch of sixty men while Reuben Thompson arrived a handful of seconds later. On Friday, a decisive stage is looming in Châtel-Saint-Denis, despite featuring “only” nineteen kilometres. “A tough time trial awaits us, with a climb and then a very fast descent”, concluded Jussi. “The legs will do the talking”. “It’s a nice time trial, I’m going to give my best, get the best time possible, then Saturday’s stage will follow,” added Thibaut. “So far, the week and the preparation are going well, and Lenny is also up there. So far, it’s been perfect.”