It was undoubtedly the most important test of his week, and Thibaut brilliantly passed it. In stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico, which included the double ascent of Monte Carpegna in the last forty kilometres, the French climber managed to fight for a long time among the main GC contenders. Back at a very good level, he even took seventh place on the finish line and entered the top-10 overall (8th) ahead of the final stage. Quite a beautiful day, and maybe an even better one with Arnaud Démare on Sunday in San Benedetto del Tronto.

Pure climbers have been waiting all week on Tirreno-Adriatico for this unique mountain stage towards Monte Carpegna (6 km at 10%), in Emilia Romagna, especially known for being of the favourite climbs of Marco Pantani. However, the road was long before getting to its first slopes. The riders indeed had to complete nearly 170 kilometres before approaching climb, and nine men then paved the way in the first hours of racing: Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën), Marco Haller (Bora-hansgrohe), Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa), Alex Aranburu, Lluis Mas (Movistar), Julian Alaphilippe, Mikkel Honoré (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo). Their lead went up to four minutes, but the favourites’ teams had every intention of bringing it back together for a GC fight in the final. Therefore, the gap was already reduced to two minutes approaching the first ascent of Monte Carpegna, nearly forty kilometres from the finish. At that point, the bunch was only made up of fifty riders or so. “The team did again a good job for Thibaut”, said Sébastien Joly. “There were some foothills before arriving at the bottom of the proper climb, and once again Antoine worked well for Thibaut. Then, Thibaut just had to try to follow the best to see where he stood.”

“I’m finally on the right track”, Thibaut Pinot

From the first steep slopes, the peloton lost many riders including Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), second overall. Thibaut Pinot was still up there, alongside the very best, as the pace intensified, and the margin got smaller for the last breakaway’s rider Quinn Simmons. Thibaut Pinot eventually crossed the summit of the first climb in the first ten positions and managed to re-join his contenders following a technical descent. Starting the second climb, the Frenchman only had a dozen men around him. However, this group soon exploded due to the attack of Mikel Landa, but more especially that of Tadej Pogacar, who flew away without anyone being able to follow. Thibaut Pinot then found himself in a second chase group with Jai Hindley and Damiano Caruso, the runners-up in the last two Giri. He later crossed the summit with them, and after a last downhill and a slight uphill finish to the line, the Groupama-FDJ’s climber battled for fifth place at the finish. He eventually came away with seventh, less than two minutes from Pogacar, and was entirely satisfied with his performance.

“I’m very happy,” he said later. “Last night I said that my goal was to get into the top 10, because I felt I was getting better and better and because it was the stage that suited me the most. I am definitely satisfied. I had good legs; feelings were good. Of course, I still miss a little something to be in the first chasing group, but after a preparation that was not easy in February, I am still happy with this result. I know that my place is there, among these riders. Just the fact of fighting with the best, as I did today, gives me motivation to prepare for the rest of the season. I am finally on the right track to get back to my best level”. For the first time in the top-10 at the WorldTour level since the 2020 Tour de France, Thibaut Pinot also moved up to eighth place overall, which should not change. “He’s been progressing since the start”, insisted Sébastien Joly. “The two first hilly stages allowed him to get in shape, and he has only improved since then. Today, it is a big satisfaction to see Thibaut back at this level. It had been a long time since he last competed with the world’s best on such a difficult course. At the finish, he could surely be satisfied with his day, and we are all very happy for him. He will now have to recover well and see how things go. Anyway, we’ve got the feeling that he is back”.

On Sunday, Groupama-FDJ will try to end their Italian week on an even better note with a potential sprint for Arnaud Démare in San Benedetto del Tronto.

No comment