The great fight between the favourites was not supposed to begin in Orcières-Merlette, but it was still necessary to be there on Tuesday for the first Tour de France 2020’s summit finish. Thibaut Pinot perfectly met the expectations. Three days after his crash, the Groupama-FDJ’s leader clearly reassured himself by following the main GC contenders to the line. He eventually placed eighth in a stage won by Primoz Roglic, climbing to 14th overall.
After the first mountain stage on Sunday, the first Tour’s summit finish was on the menu on stage 4 on Tuesday. However, before getting to the bottom of the Orcières-Merlette’s climb, the bunch had to cover more than 150 kilometers on quite hilly terrain at times. As usual, a breakaway got ahead on the route. “There were some pretty strong guys in front, so there was a good pace all day and the course was quite exhausting”, summarized the Swiss champion Sébastien Reichenbach. On the attack straight from the start, Krists Neilands, Nils Politt (Israel Start-Up Nation), Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R-La Mondiale), Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb) and Matthieu Burgaudeau (Total-Direct Energie) were immediately controlled by the yellow jersey’s team. The tempo remained solid and constant all day leading to a quite stretched bunch throughout the whole stage.
“I’m really satisfied with the result”, Thibaut Pinot
Entering the last quarter of the race, approaching the two little climbs featuring before the final one, the pace speeded up even more, already causing a first selection. However, as expected, the last climb to Orcières-Merlette (10km at 6%) proved to be the decisive one. The bunch was still quite large starting it and quickly caught the only remaining leader, Krists Neilands. Jumbo-Visma then took over and never left the front. “The tempo was very high,” said Sébastien Reichenbach, “and it went faster and faster. The speed was pretty crazy. We were still a lot halfway to the top, then it exploded with three kilometers to go”. After being positioned and protected by Matthieu Ladagnous, then by Rudy Molard and David Gaudu in the first part of the climb, Thibaut Pinot was on his own in the last two kilometers to hang on to the wheels of his main GC contenders. The Franc-Comtois never gave up a meter and eventually finished the stage in the time of the winner, Primoz Roglic, and with around fifteen other leaders.
“It was important to be in the favourites group today,” Thibaut said at the finish. “They would have told me yesterday or the day before that I would make it, I would have signed right away, because I had a lot of back problems after my crash. I had been struggling for two days but let’s say things are going a lot better today, thanks to my physiotherapist, my osteopath and Jacky [Maillot]. Either way, it was important to be there today and so I’m really satisfied with the result. The climb was not steep, but you can understand that we climbed very, very fast when you witness the damage done. There was not much to do, Jumbo-Visma set a monstrous pace”. Thibaut Pinot is now in fourteenth overall, still seventeen seconds behind the first place retained today by Julian Alaphilippe. Philippe Mauduit was also positive about today’s outcome: “It was a bit of the finish that we imagined. It was difficult for the leaders to attack in the finale, given that they averaged over 25 km/h in the climb. I think the first three stages have had on impact and we saw some tired faces in the last kilometers. We’ll need to be more patient to see gaps creating. Anyway, we can say we had a rather good day given the fact we had Thibaut in front, that we saw David again on his side until 2.5 kilometers to go, and that we saw Rudy and Seb good as well”.