Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) leads the Critérium International after two stages on the opening day of the event in Corsica. A few hours after Sam Bennett (Bora – Argon 18) sprinted to victory in the 90-kilometer stage 1, Pinot won the stage 2 individual time trial.
The win is not only Pinot’s first of 2016, but also his first ever in an ITT, and it catapulted him into the race lead with Sunday’s mountainous finale looming.
The action kicked off in Porto Vecchio with a mostly flat stage for the sprinters. Bennett proved fastest in the finishing straight, taking the win ahead of Ruby Barbier (Roubaix – Lille Métropole) and Romain Feillu (HP BTP – Auber93).
Then came the 7km individual time trial. After several early lead changes, Moreno Moser (Cannondale) set a time of 9:15 that stood for a little while before Jérôme Coppel (IAM Cycling) went two seconds faster to nab the provisional lead.
Coppel lasted 20 minutes in the hotseat before Pinot took to the course. The 25-year-old delivered a nine-minute, 11-second performance to take the lead from Coppel, and nobody who came after could best his time.
Coppel’s ride earned him a runner-up result on the day, while Pinot’s FDJ teammate Alexandre Geniez was third, three seconds back.
Two-time defending champion Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) finished the time trial in fifth place, five seconds down on Pinot.
Pinot will now have to defend his leader’s jersey during Sunday’s stage 3, which finishes atop the challenging Col de l’Ospedale.