On Thursday, for the first time since the start of the 110th Tour de France, Thibaut Pinot was able to fight for victory. Yet, it was not an easy task, since the right breakaway only formed halfway through the race on stage 12! In the last, hilly 80 kilometres, Frenchman tried to play his cards right in a group of fourteen riders, but he could not follow the attack of Ion Izagirre in the final climb. Sixth on the line, the 33-year-old climber moved up to tenth place overall, just behind his leader David Gaudu, who finished with the favorites. A great mountainous weekend is now coming up, with first a summit finish on the Col du Grand Colombier tomorrow.

The Tour de France peloton expected to suffer on Thursday. Not just because of the 3,000 meters of elevation listed on the day’s menu, but above all because, just like Tuesday, many riders wanted to join the breakaway, which therefore forecasted a furious race. It was even more so than two days ago. While forty kilometres were necessary to see the race settle a bit at the start of Vulcania, it took more than double on Thursday from Roanne. The attacks never stopped across the first hills of the stage, and Groupama-FDJ also had to deal with an unfortunate race event after about thirty kilometres. “We weren’t in a bad position, but in a downhill corner, three riders crashed, including Quentin”, said David Gaudu. “It created a split, there was a bit of hesitation, but we weren’t the only ones caught behind and we let others do the work. On the other hand, we made an extreme effort to come back. On a climb, Simon Yates accelerated, and we closed thirty seconds in just 500 meters. More fear than harm, in the end, and we managed to turn the situation around”. The young Frenchman then bridged across together with Thibaut Pinot after sixty kilometres of racing, while the battle for the breakaway was still ongoing. Barely had he caught his breath after a descent, Thibaut Pinot joined the action and managed, thanks to a sharp acceleration, to slip into the lead.

“I have no regrets”, Thibaut Pinot

“We wanted to have someone in the breakaway today,” explained David. “Everyone had their chance, including Thibaut, and he found himself in front. I also tried to follow a move or two to see if they would let me, but I quickly realized that they wouldn’t”. “We feel that Thibaut is getting better and better”, said Sébastien Joly. “Today he was not necessarily our main card, but considering how the race developed, the strong men ended up in front and he got there naturally”. Halfway through the race, Thibaut Pinot therefore found himself inside a group of fourteen riders including Mathieu van der Poel, Matteo Jorgenson, Guillaume Martin, Ion Izagirre, Tiesj Benoot, Dylan Teuns or Julian Alaphilippe. The yellow jersey group, reduced to around forty men, eased off a little, which allowed the fugitives to tackle the sequence of the last three climbs with a three-minute gap. The Col de la Casse Froide (5 km at 6%) did not really cause any damage at first, but in the following descent, Amador and Van der Poel gained a few seconds, and the Dutchman continued on his own in the Col de la Croix Montmain (5.5 km at 6%). Just behind, Thibaut Pinot proved attentive, followed Jorgenson in the downhill, and bridged across to the leading man in the last climb of the day: the Col de la Croix Rosier (5.4 km at 7.7%).

However, part of the breakaway also re-connected a few moments later, and Ion Izagirre managed to surprise his rivals by attacking two kilometres from the top. “I was at the limit for a long time, I did not have the legs to follow”, explained Thibaut. “I just survived in the breakaway today. I really did not have good legs, I was cooked. We made an effort at the start of the race, when we got trapped, and I never really recovered from it”. The Groupama-FDJ rider still tried to chase, like others, but the gap was already up to 30 seconds at the top. It further increased in the descent, and then on the flat, where the chasing riders didn’t manage to work together. Ion Izagirre therefore rode to a solo victory, while the rest of the group fought for the remaining spots. Thibaut Pinot crossed the line in sixth position, just over a minute behind the winner. “I have no regrets today, I gave everything I had,” he said. “It was an attrition race, and I was just dead. It feels good to be in front, even if it was hard to have fun today. There were riders all over the place at the start, and we did what we could. In any case, this day will take its toll”. “Izagirre was strong and put on a nice ride”, confessed Sébastien. “Thibaut fought well, and even if he didn’t come for a sixth place, it will give ideas for the next few days”.

“I’ve had the Grand Colombier in my head for two days”, David Gaudu

Three days in the mountains are looming, and Thibaut Pinot will approach them as tenth overall, after gaining five positions this Thursday. “I did not think about that”, he said. “David is going better than me, and today doesn’t change our plans. I will surely lose places, but the goal remains the same for me: to go in breakaways and help David”. As for the Breton, he finished alongside the big favorites this Thursday, surrounded by Lars van den Berg, Kevin Geniets and Valentin Madouas. “Once I recovered from the effort at the start of the race, I felt good on the climbs,” he said. “I’ve had the Grand Colombier in my head for two days and I want to perform up there. It’s July 14, it’s a nice summit finish, in a 45-minute effort. The Tour de France will be played from tomorrow, you’ll need to be ready, up for it, and I can’t wait”.

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