“I won the Tour de France at 30. And I stop my career on the spot. “ Thibaut Pinot once explained why he had to win. To breathe a gigantic sigh of relief. To come out of a very dark funnel. We are somewhere in 2018. Before extending his contract beyond the fateful date, the serious and light climber gave himself two years to leave this tunnel of questions and enter what many consider the absolute light, a yellow jersey. and glory (a French runner’s name is still missing on the tablet since Bernard Hinault in 1985). After that, he saw himself returning to the life of a quiet hermit.
Read alsoTour de France: a Grand Boucle with a double turn
Pinot felt his career, which began in 2010, piling up the fatigue of body and head, weighing the critical mass of this poisonous question on his ability to win the Tour. You could see him so close but far away. It was insinuated that he could win but that he didn’t want to. That he was causing his bad luck, fabricating his illnesses, that an internal timer would always block him when others tipped fate on the right side. Beautiful legend but false, like all beautiful legends: we forgot that certain adversaries had made themselves invulnerable by means of doping and other over-medicalization which disgusted him. But Pinot agreed to give himself two years to answer the question: what trace could he leave in history?
“It’s too many failures for me”
It’s September 5th, 2020 and he says: “Today is perhaps a turning point in my career. It’s too many failures for me. I’ve always said that cycling is about fighting, it’s about having fun. ” The Groupama-FDJ rider lost some twenty minutes this Saturday and any chance of winning, left behind in the first stage of the Pyrenees between Cazères (Haute-Garonne) and Loudenvielle (Hautes-Pyrénées). Frenchman Nans Peters (AG2R la Mondiale) wins in a solitary breakaway and Briton Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) retains the yellow jersey despite the onslaught of his rivals. Distanced in the port of Balès, forty kilometers from the finish, surrounded by his team-mates, Pinot seems to be suffering from his fall which occurred a week earlier in the first stage around Nice. About a hundred runners skidded in the rain but he is the only big name to pay the price belatedly. This is what he calls “failure”.
Four years ago, Pinot had sworn never to set foot here again. Already barred by tonsillitis, bronchitis, falls … He had exploded the screen in 2012, finished third in 2014, won Alpe d’Huez in 2015, he had overcome his weaknesses and aversions (descents, curbs, pressure from others), but he only remembered the worst. He turned to the Tour of Italy, a more family adventure, generous in the mountains, everything he loves. His performances (fourth in 2017, on the verge of reaching the final podium in 2018 when he was hit by a fever) gave him the appetite to try his luck again in France.
His 2019 Tour de France remains a long sinusoid. The very high followed by the very low. Summits: his breakaway with Julian Alaphilippe towards Saint-Etienne, his success at the Tourmalet, his light pace the next day in Ariège which could augur great prospects in the Alps. Hollow of the curve: his defeat in a curb and, above all, a pain that made him abandon in the incredible stage of Iseran (attacks from Egan Bernal and a hailstorm). The funnel grinds. Thibaut Pinot said to himself that it would have been better to have a frank debacle than a new unfinished one. He declares to the team : “To forget all that, I will have to win the Tour.” He returned to his destiny in 2020 out of duty and to know. Despite his miseries, it is still not certain that he knows.
Pierre Carrey special correspondent in Loudenvielle (Hautes-Pyrénées)