PORRENTRUY, Switzerland (VN) — Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat) saw this win coming before anyone else. It was a day he’d circled on the race route as one he could carry.
“Yesterday, I was disappointed,” Pinot said. “But today … I had really good legs today. I said this would be my day. In fact, I marked the stage. It was a stage where it was possible for a breakaway to go to the finish.”
Of course, executing ambition is the hard part. Pinot also had to persuade the team to let him ride this year’s Tour de France. How’d he do that?
“I did that by riding my bike,” he said post-win.
The youngest rider in the Tour at age 22, Pinot nailed stage 8 from Belfort to Porrentry and rode into the finish alone, with time to celebrate. He reeled in Astana’s Fredrik Kessakioff on the final climb and buried himself all the way to the line.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Pinot, who is from the Franche-Comte region, which is nearby. “I just did the longest 10 kilometers of my life, I’ll never forget it. I was quite scared when I heard the peloton had closed the gap to 50 seconds.”
The win by the bunch’s youngest rider comes on the day that its oldest rider, 40-year-old Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), attacked as well.
The win is Pinot’s first at the Tour, in his first appearance in the world’s biggest race. He had to persuade team boss Marc Madiot to let him go for it.
The rider had instructions to stay in the peloton but ruled the day after teammate Jérémy Roy laid the groundwork for his move up the day’s final climb, La Col de le Croix.
“Jérémy really sacrificed himself for me. At the foot of the last climb … I knew that I had no choice. I had to attack from the very start,” he said. “I went on my own. I came through. And it was easier because I was really supported by the public today.”
At the finish, the crowd yelled at the screen, as if it could will the young French rider along.
Once he hit the last kilometer, it was clear he’d done it.
“I was not afraid,” Pinot said. “I knew that I still had an advantage of 30 seconds, so I could really enjoy the last kilometer.”