Amidst all the confusion that surrounded the cancellation of stage 19 of the Tour de France, the early abandon of Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) had almost been lost in the fray. Two days away from the end of his best Tour in years, the Frenchman climbed off his bike in tears 40km into the penultimate Alpine stage.
The trouble began for Pinot, who lay fifth overall at the start of the day, when he dropped back to the medical car after 30km. Bandaging his thigh didn’t help, and he only fell further back from there, with teammates patting him on the shoulder as they passed.
It soon became clear that the issue, which later turned out to be a torn inner thigh muscle, was terminal. Pinot struggled on up the second climb of the stage, Montèe d’Aussois, over three minutes down on the peloton, and ended his race on the climb after a brief embrace with teammate Matthieu Ladagnous.
“Since the Valloire stage , I felt a very sharp pain in the vastus medialis, a bit like a tear,” Pinot said to French newspaper l’Equipe after the stage. “During the stage, I clenched my teeth and finished as best I could.
“This morning I was in a lot of pain. I tried, but it didn’t hold. I believed, I’m someone who has always fought. I was hoping to get that little bit of luck to make it through and I didn’t. I think it’s the biggest disappointment of my career.”
Team boss Marc Madiot said to Le Parisien that he too was disappointed by the cruel end to Pinot’s Tour, adding that, “it’s part of the life of sport – there are great joys and difficult, more delicate moments.
“We’re going to surround him with affection and sympathy,” Madiot said. “We’re going to help him rebuild for the next steps of his career. The team will be around to show him that we love him. He doesn’t deserve this.”
Madiot added that Pinot sustained the thigh injury on stage 17 to Gap, saying that Pinot hit his knee on his handlebars while avoiding a crash. “Yesterday evening we were. Optimistic, and this morning it seemed fine. In fact, it got worse pretty quickly.”
The incident was confirmed by Pinot, though he couldn’t be certain that the collision caused his injury.
“I took a slight blow to the knee on the Gap stage, but I don’t even know if that’s where it came from. I really felt the pain restart during the first descent of the stage 18.
“Did I make a small tear that I aggravated during the stage? I don’t know about that. I just know that the pain did not forgive.”
Pinot’s abandon from a contending position is the latest in a line of bad luck at Grand Tours. Back in 2016 he was a polka dot jersey contender at the Tour before being forced to abandon with bronchitis. The following season he was badly off-form after finishing fourth at the Giro d’Italia, while last year saw him quit the Giro on the penultimate day with pneumonia, having held a podium spot until then.
This year’s Tour looked different, with strong time trial results plus a stage win on the Tourmalet signalling Pinot was well in with a chance of taking his first Tour podium since 2014, or perhaps even more.
“Since last Sunday in the Pyrenees, I felt I was able to do it [win the Tour]. Without this, I’m sure I would’ve done it. I was convinced of it and that nothing could happen to me.
“In the end, we’ll never know. Now, I’m pissed off. It’s going to take time to bounce back.”