Pinot, Van Garderen, a tale of two heads.

 

Tejay on Mur

Tejay on Mur

Tour de France stage three did another sort out of the GC contenders and not the 40 odd riders who went down at Tour Madness speeds. Hey thanks ASO boss Christian Prudhomme for another edge of seat stage. (No jokes about humane Giro or humane Tour. Drama, always and yes it hurts.)

The nasty summit finish up the Mur de Huy promised an early reveal on who has the GC form and who will be making up excuses very soon and coping with various psychological traumas. Like sleeping in French hotels night after night — that would be Richie Porte’s nightmare.

Put French hope Thibaut Pinot in the Camp for those Previously Thinking Podium. Ahh, he looked so devastating in the mountains of the Tour de Suisse which isn’t the Tour de France. The hype was, how you say, bigger than a thousand baguettes stacked end to end.

Well, that’s fini now.

The Frenchman was already down 1:28 after the rain and crosswinds on stage two out to Zeeland. Now, after his jour sans jambes, he is a fat 2:58 down on the man in the maillot jaune Chris Froome. I shrug my shoulders in the classic French style as if to say, “Bof, what can one do?” Pinto is headed into Alberto Camus French existentialism — which is too say he is en marge, hors de combat, shit out of luck.

Still, he’s a cool guy but you know, now hopeless.

Pinot was not le happy camper after his performance on the Mur de Huy.“I wasn’t feeling good, I was dropped near the summit of the penultimate climb. It was a day to forget,” said Pinot.

Not to get overly dramatic but it might also be a Tour to forget. In pre-race hype mongering, Pinot and American Tejay van Garderen were both extolled as just drop down from the Fab Four. Well, that leaves Van Garderen in excellent shape but Pinot has failed to impress.

Contrast that with what so far has been a reversal of bad fortune for Tejay van Garderen. After two straight tours with the Cycling Gods showing no mercy, the BMC captain has had a perfect three days. How much would he pay for a fabulous day four?

He finished sixth up the Huy behind winner Joaquin Rodriguez and Chris Froome, a result that puts him in third place on GC. “In the end, I would say the day was a pretty big success. Froome gained a little bit, but I was able to distance a couple people and keep most of the important guys pretty close,” said Van Garderen. A far cry from the downcast Pinot who is back at the hotel searching under the bed for his morale.

Stage four is a make or break day, bone shattering day for Pinot (salvage efforts) and van Garderen (optimization goals). There are seven sectors of cobbles but then again Tejay did his youth development work with Rabobank in Belgium. He’s not unfamiliar or scared by menacing stones. He also has classic star Greg van Avermaet to guide him from cobble to cobble.

The same can’t be said for FDJ’s Pinot who already sounds half beaten or just painfully realistic. “I’m pessimistic for tomorrow, at least if my legs are like this, because on the pavé it’s decided by your strength,” said Pinot. “I won’t make a plan for tomorrow. I’m going to see how I recover, how I sleep but if I feel like I did today, then it’s going to be hard.”

That’s a definition of Tour mental strength. Those who are already in survival mode make no places, just pray for things not to get worse. Van Garderen, he as a plan for Tuesday. Which makes him a genuine GC muthafugga.

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