FDJ's Thibaut Pinot gave the Tour de France oddsmakers something to chew on today with a brilliant, powerful and patient summit victory on a long and excruciating queen stage of the Tour de Suisse. Pinot tracked the favorites most of the way up the Rettenbachferner, outside Solden, Austria, before setting off with Simon Spilak, dropping his companion, overtaking lone escapee Stefan Denifl of IAM Cycling, and soloing home to victory. The move, which puts the Frenchman 47 seconds up in the overall lead ahead of Sky's Geraint Thomas, was doubly impressive coming after more than 230km, including an earlier mountain pass as the race left Switzerland for the day.
Denifl began the final climb with Ben King, Thomas De Gendt and Przemyslaw Niemiec for company, but one by one the rest fell away while Denifl attempted to defend a lead of over four minutes to the favorites. He was looking OK for a while but finally saw the dream of a home-country victory of the highest order slip from his grasp inside the final 3km. Meanwhile, overnight leader Tom Dumoulin fell back and settled into minimizing the damange mode, knowing that if he could stay within a couple minutes he might have a chance in the race's final time trial. Additional favorites like Rafal Majka of Tinkoff Saxo and Jakob Fuglsang of Astana had no answer for the pace as they hit the upper slopes of the climb. AG2R's Domenico Pozzovivo eventually took over the pacemaking, and put several top challengers like IAM Cycling's Sebastian Reichenbach into difficulty. Eventually a final group including Pinot, Spilak, Miguel Lopez (Astana), Thomas, Sergio Henao of Sky and CCC's Jan Hirt was on its own behind Denifl. Spilak attacked for a second time, drew out Pinot, and before long he couldn't stay with the Frenchman's steady, strong pace. As the race entered its final few turns, Denifl was reeled in, and Pinot soloed home across the KOM point, and two minutes later, over the finish line. Pozzovivo led in the straggling chasers at 31 seconds.
Dumoulin came in at 1.37, putting himself in a strong position on GC at 1.32 behind the Frenchman. Saturday's finale will be hotly contested and make for one of the race's more exciting finishes, given that it pits a mix of climbers and cronomen against each other. A Pinot victory will add more fuel to an already raging fire of French excitement for the 25-year-old rider who finished on the third step of the 2014 Tour de France podium, a performance for which "promising" does injustice. His Tour run-up last year was far quieter, so perhaps today's performance will, in hindsight, be a case of coming out too strong too soon, but in a field devoid of Tour contenders, it was certainly logical to see Pinot shine brightest.
- Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 6:22:47
- Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:34
- Simon Spilak (Slo) Team Katusha 0:00:37
- Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:00:43
- Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
- Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:15
- Jan Hirt (Cze) CCC Sprandi Polkowice 0:01:18
- Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:01:29
- Stefan Denifl (Aut) IAM Cycling 0:01:31
- Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:01:37
- Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 17:42:01
- Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:47
- Simon Spilak (Slo) Team Katusha 0:00:50
- Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:55
- Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:01:07
- Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:27
- Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:01:32
- Steve Morabito (Swi) FDJ.fr 0:02:29
- Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:02:43
- Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:02:46