Have you ever seen Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) look more commanding, confident and aggressive?
The Frenchman took his first victory in a Monument in impressive fashion, attacking with Vincenzo Nibali on the Muro di Sormano, then dropping the Italian after multiple accelerations on the Civiglio.
“My goal was to be alone at the top of the Civiglio. I didn’t want to face another duel against Nibali on that downhill. He could have hurt me there. On the Civiglio, Nibali looked at me and rode alongside me, but I suspected he was bluffing. I was right. When I attacked, he suffered, so I gave it another go and got away. I told myself that my finish line was the top of the Civiglio. I was scared to be attacked and so I attacked and then was able to do the descent as I wanted. I think I rode it well, and after that it was a flat out ride to the finish.”
It’s a tribute to how far Pinot’s descending skills have come that he was able to hold and even extend his 30 second gap on Nibali in the descent of the Civiglio. He wasn’t as smooth as Nibali, one of the best descenders in the peloton, but he showed no fear on the tight hairpins and was out of the saddle whenever the road allowed.
It was a performance that showed what a complete and explosive rider he’s become. “I showed what I can do today. We have live in the moment, and I believe that everything that has happened so far in my life has lead me to win Il Lombardia,” he said.
Once he pulled away, there was never the sense that he might be caught. He looked powerful once he hit the flat, while Nibali labored over his bike — with TV commentators suggesting that a missed bottle added to the Italian’s difficulties.
Nibali was caught by a chase group led by Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) and Dylan Teuns (BMC) Racing Team. At that point his podium hopes appeared impossible but the Shark made a surprising and impressive attack to take second place, ten seconds clear of his rivals and thirty seconds behind the finishing time of Pinot.
With all due respect to Nibali, you’d have to call Pinot Mr Italy after his incredible end of season run. He won Milano-Torino just a few days ago and scored second in Tre Valli Varesine. “Il Lombardia is the most beautiful race of all for me. It’s a magnifique race. I think Il Lombardia reflects who I am as rider. It’s my favorite race, and to win it alone after a duel with [Vincenzo] Nibali is incredible. I think it was good to watch as it was to ride.”
Pinot has fallen madly in love with racing in Italy. “I’ve raced hard from the Giro dell’Emilia until Il Lombardia and consider this Italian week as the best moment of the year. It’s clear I’m in the best form of my life, so winning Milano-Torino and then Il Lombardia have made it a special week. I’ve loved every minute.”
It was also compelling evidence of his versatility — from stages races to one day classics. “Winning a Monument like Il Lombardia and winning a Grand Tour are, of course, very different. I’ve shown I can win a Classic now and I’ll be back at the Tour de France next year to do as well as I can. Who knows what that can be. I’m on holiday now and perhaps I could have raced on, but it’s also nice to end on a high.”
Perhaps it’s time we honor Thibaut Pinot with an Italian name. From this day forth, his name is Teobaldo Pinotelli, campione of Il Lombardia.