After being dropped at one point, Thibaut Pinot eventually limited his losses on Saturday around Osimo, on the usual “tappa dei muri”. With the precious support of Valentin Madouas in the final, the French climber fought until the end of the stage and was finally able to grab a fine thirteenth place at the finish. This allowed him to enter the top-10 (10th) on the eve of the last stage, made for the sprinters towards San Benedetto del Tronto.
More than 3600 meters of elevation gain, but no long climb. This was the day’s menu this Saturday on Tirreno-Adriatico, in an Ardennes-kind of stage which could have turned the general classification upside down prior to the final day of racing. “We knew it was going to be a hard stage”, explained Benoît Vaugrenard. “There were still a hundred kilometres to go when we reached the final circuit, which included really steep climbs typical of Tirreno-Adriatico and Italy, sometimes even on cobblestones. We knew there was going to be some racing and that everything could change”. The 33-kilometre-long final circuit, to be completed three times, included precisely four climbs and some terrifying slopes at more than 20%. “We had planned to put a rider in front today, but it did not succeed,” added Benoît. An eleven-man breakaway thus took the lead without the participation of the Groupama-FDJ Team, but the peloton never gave the day’s fugitives a large margin. “The race was ultimately controlled by Jumbo-Visma, and it was more a race of attrition, laps after laps”, said the French sports director. “Because they had numbers, Bahrain-Victorious tried to attack but failed. So, we knew it was going to explode on the penultimate lap.” At this moment, Olivier Le Gac and Jake Stewart put Thibaut Pinot in a good position, but the climber wasn’t able to follow the accelerations in the very steep Muro di Costa del Borgo.
“You have to know to be content with it”, Thibaut Pinot
Starting the last lap of the circuit, the Frenchman was reported some forty seconds behind the favourites’ group. “It was a very tough stage, and I wasn’t having a great day at all,” he said. “I really suffered. Luckily Valentin was there to bring me back to the front peloton on the penultimate lap.” The Strade Bianche’s runner-up indeed led the chase for his leader for a few minutes before bridging across with twenty-eight kilometres to go. “Thibaut struggled at that point, but they managed to rectify the situation with Val”, said Benoît. “We knew they could come back with the headwind, and that’s what they did. They then tried to recover a bit, in particular Thibaut, to do a good final”. While four men including Aleksandr Vlasov tried to put the leader Primoz Roglic in trouble on this last lap, everything finally came down to the last five kilometres with the final time up to Muro di Costa del Borgo and the uphill finish. Eight men made the difference against the rest, and Thibaut Pinot found himself in the first chasing group. “I fought to the end to do the best I could and to come away with a result, because the team still worked well and I think we deserve this top-10”, explained Thibaut. “Actually, I didn’t miss much on the last lap. Maybe a bit of confidence. I still had the memory of the penultimate lap in my head, and I was really scared of blowing”.
On the line, the leader of Groupama-FDJ took a decent thirteenth place, twenty seconds behind the winner Primoz Roglic. “I would obviously have liked to do more results and be better in this race, but you have to know to be content with it”, added Thibaut, who still climbed to tenth place overall. “We eventually get by ok, because we were in a bad position with one lap to go, but they rectified the situation”, concluded Benoît. “We are where we belong. Tenth was the goal and there are no regrets. Thibaut fought really well, and it will also help him for the future. We made the most of this race. There were simply stronger riders on this Tirreno-Adriatico”. Tomorrow, the final stage will bring the riders to San Benedetto del Tronto.