A Tribute to Pinot

Embed from Getty Images

Thibaut Pinot won the final stage of the Tour of the Alps, putting the long saga of chronic injuries behind him and ending the even longer winless streak and avenging his frustration at finishing second yesterday. Below is a video clip from L’Equipe TV with studio guest Pierre Carrey offering both a portrait and a tribute, worth sharing… and adding an English translation.

It’s such a good tribute that here’s a translation into English:

Beyond sport, he’s someone who speaks to you, he speaks to us all. Sometimes it’s said “you overdo things about Thibaut Pinot”. It’s true, we do overdo it. He himself complains about it ,but on the other hand he’s on the bike so he attracts that kind of limelight. He returns a bit of a shadow, sometimes light.

What he’s been able to do in two days are the two sides of the same mountain. To win today he had to lose yesterday. His win today has depth because he lost yesterday. With Pinot, contrary to his tattoo*, I find the defeats as beautiful as the losses, it’s there that it touches on something personal. Thibaut Pinot is someone who is happy in the silence of nature, who is happy on a bike, perhaps unhappy in the human world. He’s a different kind of rider, a different kind of man and you don’t find them often. It’s a mythical object, mythological. We’ll realise this the day he stops riding. Sadly we’re getting closer to this day than the day he started.

We’ll also realise there aren’t riders like that in each generation, particularly in France. Thibaut Pinot is know in France and abroad too. He embodies a sort of panache that’s a bit old-fashioned too, the Cyrano de Bergerac, a panache that loses each and every time. But this speaks to something, in France and abroad. On that level he’s reached the level of an icon. In the end we’re not expecting much more from him, whether he wins or loses, we expect him to supply emotions. We don’t know what he’s racing after, it’s a big question, does he know it? He’s there, he’s got nothing to prove, he’s on another level, he speaks to our lives as well.

* Pinot’s got a tattoo on his arm with the Italian phrase “solo la vittoria è bella” or “only victory is beautiful”

Pierre Carrey’s an authority on French cycling, he started the DirectVelo website and has written several books, including one about Pinot, and has been a columnist for newspapers like Liberation and Le Temps. I think it’s a great tribute, it might take a blogger a bike ride, fresh air, coffee and some head scratching to even try this but Pierre Carrey does it live on TV and I wanted to share it with an English speaking audience.

Romain Bardet won the overall in the Tour of the Alps to give the day some 2014 vibes.

37 thoughts on “A Tribute to Pinot”

  1. A tribute from the country that adored Poupou above ‘Monsieur Jacques’. And appreciated by myself, from the country which virtually fetishises the idea of the ‘underdog’.

    • An interesting contrast to say Teejay Van Garderen, a rider that has had his problems and perhaps never quite similarly fulfilled his promise but who attracted a lot of criticism from his own American fans particularly.
      TVG’s brasher attitude no doubt contributed to a part of that but maybe it still says something about the outlooks of the two respective countries?
      In a way, therefore, I wonder if Pinot spending his career at FDJ meant that he never made the most of his talents?
      Or was it the perfect team, that fitted in with his lifestyle and provided him with moral support and security during his times of injury and doubts?
      Maybe a bit of both, though it’s hard to imagine Pinot riding for anyone but Madiot and FDJ.
      But I wonder if Team Sky could have developed his TT potential more and then what could have been?
      Brailsford always dreamed of a French rider on his team winning TdF, I think Pinot was that man.
      Anyway, like everyone else, it is lovely to see him back, fit and well.

      • Sky did have an eye on Pinot but for the millions they could have paid him I’m not sure he’d have liked their way of doing things, and besides at the time they had Froome so Pinot would not have been their top rider. Pinot’s not wanted for much at FDJ and don’t forget on his day he’s very good in TTs, see the 2019 Tour in Pau and he’s won several other TTs.

        • I never thought of him as brash. I thought of him as insecure and maybe even frightened by being catapulted to the top of the sport by his two fifth place TdF finishes as an U23. He gave interview after interview, which CN especially was happy to publish for American clicks, I’d guess, in which he was so self-indulgent and self-referential, always coming back to his feelings and aspirations, that these interviews started to sound like confessions of fear to me. It’s like he was trying to convince himself by telling us again and again that he really did feel that he was a legit TdF contender.

          I recall leaving a comment on CN to this effect. “Shut up TJ and just race your bike. Why are you talking so much?”

  2. I was surprised at just how heartening that was to see Pinot and Bardet back amongst it. Both really, really likeable bike riders.

  3. Exactly why I love your blog. I never know what you will suddenly post about, and it is always worth the read. Thank you.
    A while ago you asked for feedback about the new image source. For what it is worth, they work on my iPhone, but on the iPad I simply get the text “Embed from Getty Images”. So in this entry, the first image just has that text, but the tweet and the second image work fine. No idea what that means though.

    • Most likely the image has some tracking behind it and your iPad’s privacy setting prohibits it. I can’t say which however.

      One possible way to clear this is to clear cookies on your iPad and when coming back accept everything on the cookie prompts. I am sure Mr Ring has set these sensibly. I also find that compared to DuckDuckGo and Safari, Firefox seems to breaking things less. Not sure whether that means they afford less protection.

  4. I didn’t know Pierre Carrey was on L’Equipe TV, that’s bound to raise the bar on a show that was a bit flat and crass at times, no offense to the people who made it, many of them talented.

    I think Carrey is spot on about Pinot. Much is made about sport promoting aspirational figures, people we’d like our ideal selves to be – courageous, strong, determined, with the will to conquer and, through your own work and talent, let nothing stand in your way. Pinot is certainly a top rider, but he is celebrated for his weaknesses – because he reminds us that he’s human, and his struggles are the ones we face, like the hero of a tragedy, promised to great things but brought down by fate and his humanity. There’s a “spleen” about this man, that is both the source of his ills and what gives him the rage to win, and that’s what we like about him – the “two sides of the same mountain”

    If he had grown up in Parisian high society in the late 19th century, he’d be writing melancholic poems in a drunken absinthe haze. Instead, he rides a bike for a living and feeds goats. And maybe the reason why he’s such a big topic is that we’re not sure how many more there will be that will incarnate that which we all feel.

    Great piece, thank you for sharing the tirade, and for the very good translation.

  5. Thanks! We’ve been watching TOTA and it was as nice to see him win yesterday as it was sad to see him lose the day before. This is the stuff that makes the sport enjoyable to watch, well-illustrating that “primacy of man over machine” the UCI likes to talk about while not always doing all they should to protect it. A competitor might lose a race because of equipment failure but you’ll have a hard time convincing me they win because of the machine they’re using, the clothing they wear or the crap they slurp out of mylar wrappers. Allez Pinot!! Keep fighting!

  6. That’s a great tribute, thanks for sharing. Plenty for the French public and beyond to love about him, which also brings with it the expectation. He does seem like a geniunely interesting character with the course of his career and his living in the French countryside with his farm, goats, cows, etc. Might be the only pro cyclist my wife and our flock of chickens can relate to 😀

    Also: https://open.spotify.com/track/66hOk17PsacZ7Ou1TF228f?si=CHDo9JrWRCW56f6af4zj4A&utm_source=copy-link&nd=1

    • Not as uncommon as we might think, and partly it’s just that we aren’t always treated to those personal details in the case of less famous riders. I remember Bruseghin and his donkeys, more recently Arnaud De Lie milking cows… as did Carapaz.
      The Moser family and their vineyards, or – further back – Ocaña’s, the scenery of some of his tragic accidents and death, but that’s from a time when it was more natural for a cyclist to invest in country lands, farms and so on.

      • You are probably right. I guess it is easy to forget nowadays when cycling – at least to me – seems to become so much more streamlined and robotic. Probably don’t have to go as far as the mountain villages of Columbia to find similar backgrounds even today.

  7. L’Equipe21 is a useful source of live – and free – cycling (they have Romandie next week). The live coverage is always followed by a generally bland filler/analysis and summing up (Ca va frotter), except that yesterday I left the TV on and Carrey was both wise and insightful.

    My first instinct was to see Pinot as a sort of Gallic Gazza but he isn’t. He shares the heart-on-his-sleeve but with a rooted sensitivity and without the drink, drugs and excess. France, Marc Madiot and myself would be delighted to see him win another monument.

  8. Thank you for this. Almost elegaic! But I think Pinot has lots more to give us. There aren’t many riders that you want so much to do well. And it’s partly to do with the panache Carrey highlights, but it’s also that we can somehow identify with him. Of course, he is a great athlete, but it is his spirit that shines through. One of his failures is worth more than another rider’s calculated, metronomic victories.

  9. Lovely piece and translation about one of my favourite riders.

    Really feel for his injuries in recent years. what if he’d been injury-free? Could he have won a grand tour? At 31, hopefully he still has time on his side. Another ‘what if’ he’d gone to a different team? Difficult to picture him in different colours to the tricolore.

    • “Another ‘what if’ he’d gone to a different team?” WTF? Instead of one of those French ones run by guys who don’t know what they’re doing, as claimed by someone here not too long ago?
      Perhaps a team like – SKY/INEOS, lauded by a former rider with: “Don’t go to SKY. Stay clear of them. Go somewhere else because they’ll ruin you.”? I’m certain that would have worked out well.

      • Just a bit of harmless speculation.

        Personally, I would love for him to see out his career at FDJ: I believe he can win a grand tour (probably as long as Pog doesn’t finish). I also hope to watch him win many races from a break when he reaches elder statesman level just so we can be treated to Madiot dangling halfway out of his car window cheering him on from 15km to go..

        I get the impression that he’s content being a slightly larger fish in a smaller pond based in his home country and no amount of money/goats could have tempted him to join Sky/UAE/Jumbo.

      • Absolutely. As much as I love Bernal and was happy to see him win, Pinot pulling over to the team car was a crushing moment to watch. If there was ever going to be a poetic successor to Hinault, Pinot in the 2019 TDF would have been it.

  10. A rare encomium given by a true speaker.
    Thank you for sharing.

    – Though he missed out the part 《..qu’il lutte contre son velo soit grande partie de son allure et aussi une grande perte de son effort..》 and does anyone else see a great of our sport let down by equipment that just does not fit his bodily form? He doesn’t walk with a stoop, so why does his bike make him squirm to accommodate his back? Why is it necessary for him to splay his elbows and nearly knock his knees on the bars?!

    So many years watching this guy, seemingly on the same size bike he grew out of into his twenties has been an agony, when we all want him to win big.

    I’d start by swapping his stem a lot longer and raising the saddle, possibly with shorter cranks… but I’m not a bike fit.

  11. Nice bloke, and a good rider, and appeals to those who wish of another age in cycling.

    But he sums up what’s wrong with French cycling; no wonder they’ve not had a TdF winner for over 30 years.

  12. Thanks, what I think is true, ‘To win today he had to lose yesterday’. Shows his incredible strength and the reason to love such a rider.

  13. Amusing how passionate the French are for losers. Tragic heroes. Except Fingon.

    I’ve seen this script before starting with Jean Francois Bernard.

    Chapeau for the in the moment poetic commentary.

    • We always have been like this. The big epic of french Middle Age is about a battle lost, about Roland de Roncevaux and his death…

  14. The poor French – if only they’d come here and learn from all the keyboard wizards of tactics, tech, training, positioning and all the rest, French cycling could be back up there like in the days of Hinault!!! Maybe there’s a need for the “Inner Ring Complete Book of Cycling”? Translated into French of course! 🙂

    • It seems you’ve changed. Has it all become too much? You have my sympathy if that’s the case.

      I sometimes imagine that I know better than everyone else, but find a glass of water and a lie down help me restore my sense of perspective. Staying silent until ido can be a challenge.

      Of course that I’m not saying it will work for anyone else, but it’s non-toxic and appears not to offend anyone.

  15. Except that they must be doing something wrong or not have the riders to do everything right? Otherwise they would have won their beloved Tour some time in the past three decades. You could say the same about Sky/Ineos now, albeit over a much shorter period (although they seem to have transformed into Quick Step).

  16. Reminds me a little of the 2015 TDF.
    Cummings mugged Pinot (and Bardet) off to win into Mende. Pinot then had a couple of near misses (4th on two stages) before winning on L’Alpe. Bardet won in the Alps as well that year. So both had some revanche

  17. INRNG – are you Pierre Carrey’s agent or something?
    Why is not allowed to post an opinion that his tribute is pseudo-philosophical waffle – sounds great but not really containing any meaningful substance?
    I understand that you and many others disagree with that opinion – but why is it OK for you to suppress it by removing posts which express just that?

    • Your comments went the wrong side of the recently upgraded spam filter… and they are a bit spammy and without a name which probably triggers several warnings in the software.

      No worries if you disagree with Carrey that’s fine but state your case rather than posting swear words and youtube clips.

Comments are closed.