On Sunday, Thibaut Pinot said goodbye to the Giro d’Italia in an iconic setting, a stone’s throw from the Colosseum. But most importantly, the 33-year-old Frenchman left his very last “Corsa Rosa” through the front door. After three turbulent weeks, which seems an echo to his history with the race, the Groupama-FDJ leader still achieved most of his goals. Besides his excellent fifth place overall, he also climbed on the podium in Rome to receive the best climber’s maglia azzurra. All this is to be combined with two almost successful attempts at a stage victory. Thibaut Pinot was one of the men of this Giro, and that’s what he came for. He also allowed the team to leave Italy with very positive results, which got even better thanks to Bruno Armirail’s two days in pink.
From the Slovenian border on Saturday evening, the Giro was to return to the Italian capital on Sunday in the early afternoon for the very last stage of its 106th edition. The riders thus took off from Trieste on Sunday morning to reach Rome, where they were set to ride a 126-kilometre flat stage. A “Champs-Élysées” kind-of stage, where the peloton first had the opportunity to celebrate the imminent end of the race, while some riders were already enjoying their success. Once the Prosecco glasses and the pictures were done, the “real” race started on the final circuit, about seventy kilometres from the finish. Maxime Bouet (Arkéa-Samsic), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-hansgrohe) established the breakaway and kept the lead until the bell announced the last lap of thirteen kilometres. Ignatas Konovalovas and Fabian Lienhard gradually moved Jake Stewart back up for the expected sprint, and the young Briton even managed to secure a great place in the front in the last minutes. “We were a little worried about the course given what happened in 2018”, explained Sébastien Joly. “Fortunately, the course was slightly modified and the technical parts were of better quality. We then could attend a beautiful party in a superb finish. Jake was very well positioned in the last kilometre, and he sprinted to sixth place, his best result on the Giro. It’s good, but the most important thing is that he has completed his first Grand Tour. We know how much it will help him for the future”.
“I finished my story with the Giro as best I could”, Thibaut Pinot
Almost at the head of the pack when the sprint started on Sunday, Jake Stewart was in the perfect spot to see his fellow countryman Mark Cavendish take victory, while a nasty crash occurred just in his wheel. No rider from Groupama-FDJ was involved, and Thibaut Pinot was able to secure his fifth place overall when crossing the line: a real achievement for his last year in the peloton. However, starting the evening, it was the mountains classification’s blue jersey that allowed him to participate for the very first time in the final ceremony of the Giro. Coming down from the podium, the climber from Melisey could only have a smile on his face. “It was a Giro with lots of emotions, but with a lot of stress too because I wanted to do well”, he said. “The last image people had of me on the Giro was my abandon the day before Rome in 2018. I really did what I had to do. I came here to finish my story with the Giro well, and I finished it as best I could. I had three goals, and I only miss a stage victory. It would have made this Giro perfect, but I’m really happy. It still is a really successful Giro. I just wanted to enjoy what I was doing. I think I managed to do that. I now have a few months to finish my career in style, but the Giro was one of my goals this year. I think I have fulfilled this goal”.
“Everyone had ups and downs”, Sébastien Joly
Barely crowned with the second distinctive jersey of his career on a Grand Tour, Thibaut Pinot even had the opportunity to climb onto the final podium for a second time at the end of the event. This time, he did it with all of his teammates and sports directors to receive the fair play award. Jake Stewart, Fabian Lienhard, Rudy Molard, Bruno Armirail and Ignatas Konovalovas also received their own recognition, which proved all the more symbolic after three tricky weeks of racing. “The mission is almost complete with this fifth place in the general classification and the best climber’s jersey”, concluded Sébastien. “Bruno’s two days in pink and his sixteenth place overall are very nice bonuses. If we wanted to be greedy, we could say that a win is missing, but we should above all highlight the whole team’s spirit. Everyone had ups and downs. Everyone had difficult times: Thibaut of course, but also Rudy, Kono, Fabian, or Jake, who almost abandoned. We can take our hats off to the riders and send a big thank you to the staff who did a very good job. It is also important to think of them, because a Grand Tour is also a human adventure. It passed by very quickly, and paradoxically, the start also seems very far away. This in-between situation is for sure due to all the emotions we have experienced the past month”.