It was worth the wait! After a hard first week of the Tour de France, and a second week where he came close to victory, Thibaut claimed victory on the most legendary mountain stage of the Tour de France, with the finish at the top of the Alpe d'Huez.
The organizers of the Tour de France had decided to maintain the suspense until the end. On the eve of the finish in Paris, it was a very short but very nervous stage that awaited the riders with "only" 110 km and the climb of the Col de la Croix de Fer, before attacking the 21 switchbacks of the Alpe d'Huez. As of the 1st kilometer, an FDJ rider attacked and spent the whole stage at the front. Alexandre Geniez, faithful lieutenant of Thibaut Pinot felt he was in a good way. On the Croix de Fer, the big fight between the favorites already started; Quintana and Valverde (2nd and 3rd overall) attacked. While Froome defended his yellow jersey, Thibaut Pinot did not panic and followed the group of favorites, waiting for the right moment.
Thibaut Pinot's greatest victory at the top of the Alpe d'Huez!
Photo credits: Sirotti
Then, a small group of 6 riders escaped before the last climb. At the bottom of the Alpe d'Huez, Geniez still led with 1min50 ahead of Pinot’s group and 3min50 on the yellow jersey group. Then, two riders came off the pace and strongly accelerated: Pinot and Hesjedal (former Giro winner). 9kms from the top, the duo caught Geniez, who threw his last forces into the battle to help Thibaut Pinot. A big day for the Aveyronnais, a model teammate. 6kms from the goal, Thibaut Pinot accelerated once again and dropped Hesdjedal to fly to the victory. But nothing was sure at that moment, because behind the big fight had begun between the favorites. Nairo Quintana, who finally managed to get Froome off of his rear wheel, was flying on that climb. He came dangerously close to Pinot, but the FDJ rider did not weaken! He says that the last 3 km were the toughest of his career. But with such an atmosphere and such a victory in sight, Thibaut Pinot could not let go.
He won with 18 seconds in front of Quintana and put his name in the exclusive circle of winners of the Alpe d'Huez. Undoubtedly the most beautiful way to conclude the Tour de France which had a rather bad start for the FDJ team but that ended in a sweet victory.
Thibaut Pinot spoke after his win: "It's great, I have no words to describe my joy. L'Alpe d'Huez, I always dreamed of. In the climb, the crowd was impressive... I hardly knew where I was going, I had chills. Besides, when I dropped Hesjedal, I felt pushed by the public .. I had a difficult start to turn around, I fought every day to try to win and to win there .. Alpe d'Huez, this is the best that could happen to me, to me as the team .. This is the most beautiful . I think if you ask any rider for the victory of his dreams, he’ll say this one. It was worth the wait of 3 weeks for this victory. "
"Once I was alone at the front, I did not know that Quintana had attacked behind. It's Yvon (Madiot, his manager) who told me at 3 kms from the finish that he was coming back strongly. Before, I heard nothing at all in the headset with the noise of the crowd, I tried to look back but it was impossible to see anything. I had no difference, nothing. When he told me he was 40 seconds from me, I understood that we should not hang around. After that, it was a big stress... Then when I saw that the FDJ car was still behind me at 500 meters, I realized it was good!”