Five years ago is almost ancient history in cycling terms, but 2023 Giro d’Italia racer Thibaut Pinot has no difficulty in remembering his 2018 ascent of the Gran Sasso, perhaps more because of its extreme length than because he came second that day.
Speaking before the stage 6 start, the Groupama-FDJ racer warned that the GC contenders risked losing ‘a whole stack of time’ if they were dropped early on the 26-kilometre ascent, which is by far the most serious climbing challenge of the first half of the Giro d’Italia.
Riding his final Giro and currently leading the race’s mountains ranking for the first time in his career, Pinot added that he hoped to be able to fight for the stage win on Friday’s summit finish.
But he pointed out that the current state of play in the GC battle between Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) could well reduce his chances.
Pinot had previously rejected an idea pitched by compatriot and fellow 2023 Giro d’Italia participant, Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) that he could make it onto the final podium as “very, very difficult.” But he did concede that he was keeping his options open until after the second time trial of the race on stage 9.
“The general, the stages…we’re looking at all of this day by day,” Pinot, 17th and 2:33 down on overall leader Andreas Leknessund (DSM), told reporters. “Let’s say the GC is a goal in the first week and then we’ll look for stages.”
“We’ll only really reach a decision after the stage 9 TT because that’s a day when we could lose a lot of time on those two leaders,” he said, referring to Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep).
Second in 2018 behind Simon Yates on the Gran Sasso, Pinot said he had good memories of the climb, and that it was “long and difficult, but fortunately, the weather wasn’t an issue and didn’t impact on the stage.”
“I got second behind Yates, I remember there were a dozen of us fighting for the win and we started attacking and going for it with a kilometre to go.”
The weather was not a factor in 2018, but that was perhaps a different issue on Friday when snow is forecast to make an appearance a the highest points of the stage.
“It’s not the hardest climb in the Giro, but it’s really long,” Pinot said. “Certainly some leaders could lose some time on a climb as long as that, particularly if you’re unlucky enough to get dropped early on. If you are in poor form…
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