Highlights of 2012 – Part I

Thibaut Pinot Tour de France

I’m going to pick five moments from 2012. They are a personal choice. With any list you often omit more than you include but I’ll explain each moment. They’re presented in no particular order.

First up the scenes of joy as Thibaut Pinot won a stage of the Tour de France and behind team manager Marc Madiot goes beserk with joy and pride. But all is not quite as it seemed or was reported at the time…

I’d been tipping Pinot for a while as a rider to watch but 2012 wasn’t quite working out for him as he was off the pace in races that could have suited him thanks to illness and fatigue. There were some good signs, for example he was eighth in the Tour de Romandie’s final stage, a mountain time trial. And then again in Switzerland he got fifth and sixth in two mountain stages before falling ill and quitting the race. A start in the Tour was not likely and the talk was he’d be better suited to the Vuelta with its mountains.

But fate ruled otherwise. Team mate Arnold Jeannesson was supposed to be FDJ’s overall hope in the Tour de France but got an injury. It wasn’t just luck as Pinot was lobbying hard to ride the Tour, especially since the race went through his home town Mélisey where Papa Pinot is the town’s mayor.

Madiot relented and Pinot started the Tour but when the homecoming stage happened things didn’t go to plan and he only finished 15th. Now 15th for a neo-pro on the first climbing test should impress. As he climbed up to the Planche des Belles Filles, “his” training climb Pinot found Madiot shouting encouragement from the team car. Pinot didn’t want this and turned round and yelled “shut up” which put Madiot in his place. Try doing that with your boss. This was a sign of authority from Pinot, the youngest rider in the race. He said he had a bad day and the legs were not there.

The next day saw everything change. A very hilly route into Switzerland saw a fast start as a breakaway struggled to go clear as Team Sky filtered who was allowed to get away from the bunch. After an hour the race had done 50km and finally a large group of 20 went away. The lead kept changing until Astana’s Kessiakoff led for the final two climbs but behind Pinot and another promising Frenchman Tony Gallopin were closing in. Pinot timed it perfectly and deposed Kessiakoff on the final climb to pull out a small lead on the descent. Behind the overall candidates started fighting and Wiggins, Froome, Evans, Menchov, Nibali, Zubeldia, Schleck, van den Broeck and Horner were chasing Pinot who had his work cut out as the course had changed direction and an awkward headwind made it hard. It wasn’t just Madiot who was nervous, back in the Pinot household both his parents gave up watching on TV with 12km to go, his mother was the first to go out to the garden and pick beans from the vegetable patch before Régis Pinot joined here too. Back in the race and Madiot was shaking in the team car as he roared “you’re going to win, kid” and sure enough Pinot had his moment of triumph. Only with the headwind, vehicles, helicopters and crowds Pinot could hardly hear the vocal eruptions in the team car behind.

You wonder if Madiot had any voice left after July because Pinot went on to finish second at La Touissuire and fourth in Peyragudes before settling for tenth overall. Whether deciding to make amends for a bad day in his homecoming, telling his boss to shut up or climbing with the best during the rest of the race Pinot’s ability wasn’t just a joy to watch, it gives millions of Frenchmen something to cheer about.

A highlight? Well the stage was exciting to the end and it was satisfying to see a promising rider deliver, especially recovering from the bad day on his home roads. And the team car theatrics show the emotion the sport can bring.

20 thoughts on “Highlights of 2012 – Part I”

  1. That was a highlight – a DS yelling at his rider…actually yelling at him directly, rather than through an earpiece. Might not have been so great for Pinot who could have simply yanked out the earpiece, but great to watch, bringing back a simpler time in our sport.

  2. Smashing one of the nicest wins of the year and totally deserved, PInot really is class.

    Madiot deserves this he’s been so vocal in his support of clean cycling, and his support of young and French talent has been exemplary.

    • Darren – does your wife actually listen to your cycling-punditry? Luck man – mine glazed over years ago, the kids aren’t bothered and the cats don’t seem to care either…

      I thought this was the void the the web fills!

  3. Brilliant easily the best stage in this years tour for action without a doubt. A great win which was made even better to see the passion and emotion in the team car as well.

  4. Pinot the great french hope! He’s got a really good head on him too, smart and charismatic, said in l’Equipe last week that he wants to ”dominate” (his word).
    Podium sur le Tour this summer!!

  5. Only two memorable moments for me this year.
    Ryder Hesjedal. Yes. He deserved it. He owes Stetina or Vande Velde a kidney for their work.
    Lance Armstrong. Yes. He deserved it. He owes a lot of people an apology.

  6. ‘Brought a tear to my eye when director and rider looked at each other face to face knowing victory was theirs.

    I’ve come around to think it may be fine time for Liggett and Sherwin to pass the torch. Beyond recycled commentary from the last 15 years and sycophantic groveling to Lance Armstrong, I can’t really recall what they banter about during the race coverage.

    Best wishes for pleasant holidays INRNG. 🙂

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