“Ça y est! C’est fini.” Thibaut Pinot exclaimed after finishing Il Lombardia, effectively ending his professional career.
“I’m far from being a world champion but I have the best public in the world. It was a magnificent experience,” he said of the hundreds of screaming Pinot Ultras fans who had travelled to Italy for his last dance, gathered on the ‘Curva Pinot’ on the final climb of the race to Bergamo Alto to cheer and celebrate his unique character and career.
Pinot’s teammate Valentin Madouas, bemused by the photographers’ scrum that jumped on Pinot at the finish line asked “Did you win today?”
“I am embarrassed with all of it, I’m not sure I deserve it,” Pinot suggested later.
The “Curva Pinot” had been “a total chaos,” Pinot said. He was nearly dragged off his bike, as his fans shouted his name and tried to touch him in a final moment of emotion.
“I like that kind of passion,” the Frenchman admitted.
“The ‘Curva Pinot’ is a pure celebration,” one of the Groupama-FDJ staff said. “It shouldn’t really exist, it’s just fun and a little ironic due to the contrast to Pinot’s character.”
“It happened at the Tour de France on the Petit Ballon d’Alsace, with a “Virage Pinot. At Il Lombardia, Thibaut gave people the extra motivation to create another non-cycling event at a bike race.”
There was lots of emotion and tears that came after the songs and cheers, and the common question among the Pinot Ultras was: “What time did you cry for the first time today?”
Pinot was emotional too. “I haven’t won so many races in my career, but I think winning can even be boring. People want emotions, good or bad. They also know I’m like them, with the same hobbies and interests, the same fears and the same emotions.”
Arthur and Antoine, two young friends living in Paris, rode over 1000 kilometres from the French capital to pay their tribute to Pinot during his last dance. They joined the massive Ultras fan club at Il Lombardia and joined in the celebrations.
“This is a kind of pilgrimage,” Arthur said. “It’s a bit ironic that I suffered from knee tendonitis on the second day of our bike journey, it’s a Pinot-esque, isn’t it?”
Every Pinot fan who stood on the final climb had a lot of stories and memories to share, fueled by Italian beers and a…