Pinot’s new contract. Le Cannondale? Pas de ’75.

FDJ Forever?

FDJ Forever?

French climber Thibaut Pinot is out of contract with FDJ at the end of the 2016 season. The guy who finished on the Tour de France podium two years ago and won the Alpe d’Huez stage in last year’s edition, says he’s open to offers.

“I see myself continuing with them, but I’m not going to close other doors,” Pinot told L’Équipe. “I will study any offers that I receive. But let’s see how this season goes first.”

Well, what Pinot needs to ask himself is whether training like it’s 1975 — like his French compatriot Pierre Rolland — is the way he’ll reach the next level of performance and compete against the likes of Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana.

The seventies reference is from Cannonade’s sensei Jonathan Vaughters. When he discovered how new recruit Rolland was training with Europecar, he had a flashback that went back over 40 years. According to Vaughters, Rolland was still training like it was 1975.

We have to wonder if that’s also the case for Pinot over at FDJ where boss Marc Madiot runs a traditional, old school a la franchise squad. FDJ is not Team Sky or BMC or Cannondale and sports science doesn’t appear to be a major priority.

Will Cannondale become the next hot destination for French ex-pats? Once the home of brits David Millar and Bradley Wiggins, the team could now pivot nicely to go Frenchy-style.

Vaughters was outspoken (and shocked) about how much improvement they were able to register with Rolland in terms of his aerodynamics and time trial power. In Camp Argyle, they think those marginal gains (and better team support) are enough to take Rolland from his usualGC top ten to a potential podium spot in Le Grand Shindig.

Cannondale had also identified that Rolland always lost big chunks of time in the first week of the Tour due to poor backup and positioning. Doesn’t that sound like Pinot in the 2015 Tour de France where he practically threw in the towel after his various mishaps put him over ten minutes back on GC?

Here’s Pinot on one of his goals moving forward: “I aspire to reach the level of the other climbers in flat time trials during stage races.” Well, that sure sounds like the Rolland make-over that Cannonade just accomplished.

A Rolland-Pinot double-shot could be plenty of fun at Cannondale and would give Vaughters even more opportunity to drink French wine and chow down in Michelin starred restaurants. Boulder, Colorado has some great places to eat but let’s not get confused about what the chef is preparing. France is France.

The only drawback could be Pinot’s fragile personality. The man seems to require a very safe, stable environment and that may ultimately hold back his development. In the L’Equipe interview he mentions needing “calmness” and that reads as French security blanket.

It may well be that Pinot is unwilling to take the risk of a new environment — and approach to training — that will improve his skills. A need for familiarity may stagnate his career.

 

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