In Bergamo on Saturday, a beautiful chapter of contemporary cycling came to an end, as well as an indelible sequence in the history of the Groupama-FDJ cycling team. After fourteen years at the highest level, made up of great victories, heart-breaking failures but above all excessive emotions, Thibaut Pinot finished his career in his favourite race. Although he was not able to fight with the best, he got much more than that. The public’s love for him was expressed, for the last time, through the “Curva Pinot” in the final climb of the day. Supporters who came in large numbers from France celebrated their idol for the very last time, in a day that will surely go down in history. Just proof that emotions override everything.

The day promised to be emotional, but it undoubtedly exceeded all expectations. Although it didn’t suit his personality at all, Thibaut Pinot was the centre of attention on Saturday, for the last race of his career. Not the most comfortable with this situation, the 33-year-old Frenchman first received a standing ovation on the podium at the start, in Como, before being honoured by the race and by his peers as he was invited to position himself at the head of the bunch for the neutral start. Then, the first kilometres of racing, during which a large breakaway developed, allowed the Groupama-FDJ climber to receive many greetings. “Many riders congratulated me, and I am actually surprised, because in the peloton as in life, I am quite wild and shy,” he said. “It was a very special day, but we tried to stay focused as much as possible and not get overwhelmed by emotion,” added Rudy Molard. “We tried to make the most of this day with Thibaut while remaining focused on the race,” said Valentin Madouas. “It is still a Monument, and it must be respected.” On the race side, the decision was made gradually, and a first big selection took place in the sequence of Passo della Crocetta and Zamba Alta, around sixty kilometres from the finish. The peloton was then made up of around fifty riders, including Valentin Madouas, Rudy Molard, Quentin Pacher and Thibaut Pinot. After a long descent, it was finally in the Passo di Ganda that everything exploded. The favorites’ fight really started, Tadej Pogacar managed to go solo on the descent while the Groupama-FDJ riders were unable to join in the big battle.

“I will think about this special day very often”, Thibaut Pinot

However, the race was far from over for them, in particular for Thibaut Pinot. A very last appointment awaited the rider from Melisey, in the Colle Aperto, on the heights of Bergamo, just three kilometres from the finish. More than half a thousand people, mainly travelling from France for the occasion, had gathered in the “Curva Pinot” for several hours to celebrate, honour, and greet their idol one last time. From the morning procession towards this new place of pilgrimage to the riders’ arrival, the atmosphere and the songs never died down. Yet, the best moment was yet to come. The fans first saw Pogacar heading towards the final victory, then celebrated Valentin Madouas (26th) a little later, before Thibaut Pinot, still alongside Rudy Molard and Quentin Pacher, appeared in this piece of the course dedicated to him. The noise increased tenfold, the path of the riders narrowed, and with a broad smile, the man from Haute-Saône came through the crowd, practically escorted by the hundreds of fans. “It was a lot of emotion,” said Thibaut. “I had a few questions before coming here, but in the end, I won’t regret it because it was a great party. I will think about this special day very often. I didn’t expect there would be so many people. It was real chaos, a real mess just the way I like it. It was crazy and it was a really intense moment. The videos will be incredible.”

“I really have the best fans in the world”, Thibaut Pinot

After these few hundred metres out of time, out of the ordinary, he then gathered again with Rudy Molard and Quentin Pacher, who were slowed down by the crowd, to reach the finish line. His last finish line. Shortly before 5 p.m. on Saturday, Thibaut Pinot’s fourteen years among the pros came to an end. “I tried to make the most of it,” he added. “It was a magnificent experience. I knew it was going to be a tough day, but I fought and I had to finish. Finishing with Quentin and Rudy is a nice symbol for me. It’s a special race and that’s why it’s the most beautiful Classic. Having won it is truly my greatest pride. During the race today, I said to myself: “Today I am unable to win, but I already won it.” This race will remain a great memory. It was the last bib, but I will have memories for life.” “A chapter is closing,” Rudy said. “We will remember his career, but also this day.” The party continued into the early evening, where hundreds of supporters again reunited in front of the team bus. On this occasion, and in a final speech, Thibaut Pinot concluded the day with these words: “I am certainly not world champion, but I think that I really have the best fans in the world”. And he’ll now be sorely missed by them. Ciao, Thibaut.

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