About two weeks before the Tour de France, Thibaut Pinot brilliantly passed his first test. At the summit of the Col de Porte, which hosted the finish of the Critérium du Dauphiné’s second stage, the Groupama-FDJ’s leader took a superb second place, a few seconds behind Primoz Roglic. The Frenchman also climbs to second overall on Thursday evening and surely is on the right track. Bruno Armirail also made quite an impression, being the last rider from the breakaway to be caught, eight kilometers from the finish.

“I had a lot of fun being in front”, Bruno Armirail

After the longest stage of the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné yesterday, the shortest one was on the menu on Thursday: only 135 kilometers to cover between Vienne and the summit of the Col de Porte. However, before the expected fight between the favourites, a breakaway could take the lead and it was done within just ten minutes. Groupama-FDJ chose to send a rider up front and Bruno Armirail then found himself with seven other riders. “We wanted to go in the breakaway if it included at least ten riders,” said the Frenchman. “Unfortunately there were only eight of us and we weren’t given much time”. In the front of the peloton, Jumbo-Visma indeed controlled the race from the start. “We had a maximum lead of three minutes, it was not enough, and we knew the leaders wanted to go for the victory today,” added Bruno.

Even so, the native of Bagnères-de-Bigorre remained in the lead for a while and was even among the strongest of the breakaway in the last part of the race, especially in the Côte Maillet where the pace started to increase both in front and in the peloton. “We got away together with Michaël Schär on the penultimate climb and then he rode well on the flat part”, he explained. The duo kept a minute gap on the peloton at the bottom of the Col de Porte. Armirail then broke away solo. “Schär must have felt his breakaway from the day before,” he explained. “I was fresher than him so I tried something on the last climb. Even though I was only 30 seconds ahead of the bunch, I had nothing to lose. You never know…” In fact, over the sixteen kilometers of climbing, Bruno Armirail completed half of it in the lead before getting caught by a reduced bunch: “If I had been caught 4-5 km from the summit, I could have been useful to Thibaut. At eight kilometers, it was too far for him to attack. I would have liked to help Thibaut more but still I had a lot of fun being in front today”.

“I feel that I’m improving”, Thibaut Pinot

Halfway to the top, around 40 riders were still in the peloton led by the Ineos train. Sébastien Reichenbach and Valentin Madouas were still with Thibaut Pinot and riders continued to be dropped at the back until two kilometers to go. Thibaut Pinot then followed an attack from Emmanuel Buchmann, which reduced the favourites group to ten men or so. Jumbo-Visma took control again for a bit until Primoz Roglic made his decisive move 500m from the line. A few lengths behind the Slovenian, Thibaut launched a counter-attack and finally broke away from the other favourites to secure a great second place, eight seconds behind today’s winner. “The stage went good, I had good feelings,” said the Frenchman. “There was just a stronger one today. We must therefore be satisfied with this second place. Right now, I think Roglic is better than the rest. Behind, we are ten or so at the same level. Personally, I feel that I made progress since the Route d’Occitanie and that’s what’s important. I now have three good days in the mountains to continue doing the best I can”.

“We are satisfied with the stage”, added Philippe Mauduit. “First of all because we saw Bruno show himself up front, he had fun and also took a lot of confidence. This is important when you join a group like this one. It was also satisfying to see Thibaut in this final with his main rivals, the best riders in the peloton. He keeps improving, that’s for sure.” The Frenchman is now second overall, twelve seconds from the yellow jersey. Thanks to a good climb (12th), Sébastien Reichenbach is eleventh while Valentin Madouas (24th overall) enables Groupama-FDJ to be second in the team classification on Thursday evening. Friday, on stage 3, the peloton will face the Col de la Madeleine (18 km at 8%) before another summit finish at Saint-Martin-de-Belleville (15 km at 6%). “Tomorrow is another day,” concluded Philippe. “We will take this race day by day as we often do. A lot can still happen in this race and the weather conditions are very unpredictable too (there was a hailstorm after the finish on Thursday, note). We need to be careful and not get too enthusiastic. It’s good to see the boys doing what they did yesterday and today, but we remain focused and the most important is to keep working, and working well.”

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