The heavyweight of the Tour weighs 59 kilos. Since his victory at the age of 22 in July 2019, the Colombian Egan Bernal has known that his shoulders have just become heavier with a sometimes bulky ballast: the label of favorite. In front of him, in what could be the match which makes the public fantasize on the sides of the road, even well bald and masked this year: Thibaut Pinot.
The Frenchman of Groupama-FDJ is back, after his abandonment last year headlong and crippled, with pain and sorrow, during the Tignes stage, 48 hours from the Champs-Elysées. Let’s dream a little: Pinot, a pure climber with a roller-coaster-shaped fate on the Tours, is back on the bill in a new episode of “return of vengeance”. Can the rooster of Franche-Comté fly in the feathers of the eagle of Zipaquira, the Colombian stronghold of Bernal? Last year, Pinot proved, notably at Tourmalet and Prat-d’Albis, that on the pedal, he could look Bernal in the eye or even make him admire his bib from afar.
But cycling is not an individual sport. This Tour, which leaves from Nice, could look like a walk for the English of Ineos, now Ineos-Grenadiers. Pinot and Groupama-FDJ will have to play the musketeers: cunning, clever and acting with panache. The match is complicated but Pinot has decided to pick up the glove and get back into the ring. Officially, he is only aiming for a podium. Officially… Cyrille Guimard, consultant for RMC and former coach of the France team, agreed to decipher the match for us.
STATE OF FORM. Pinot Advantage
Pinot. “I am reassured by Thibaut. He is one of those who have shown themselves to be strong. His progress has been constant since the start of the season and I do not see why this should not continue. Logic would like it to get even better. “
Bernal. “Its evolution is less linear. I found him domineering without being very strong. On the Tour d’Occitanie for example, he made some differences without being aerial. I even found him weaker than his teammate Pavel Sivakov, who worked for him. “
THE POTENTIAL. Bernal Advantage
Bernal. “He won the Tour at 22. Point! That says it all about its potential. But, even though his progression is not complete, I have the impression that biologically and physiologically, he is not far from his peak. “
Pinot. “He’s at his top level. We must not tell stories: we do not progress after 30 years because cellular degradation begins to do its work. But Thibaut is capable of great performances linked to his mind, his confidence and his calm. “
THE MENTAL. Bernal Advantage
Pinot. “He’ll be even stronger when he gets even more killer and villainous.” Let’s be frank, Thibaut has long asked himself too many metaphysical questions. At one point, he experienced different muscle injuries but possibly related to a psychological concern. “
Bernal. “I have never detected any flaws in him at this level. He always displays a calm, serene and impassive face. Whatever the circumstances, he is in control. “
HIS TEAM. Bernal Advantage
Bernal. “Ineos replaced two former winners, Froome and Thomas, with two stronger guys, Carapaz and Sivakov! In addition, Froome and Thomas, at one point, might have had mental reservations about get down plank (Editor’s note: driving at the head of a group) for a youngster. “
Pinot. Groupama-FDJ is like a rugby pack that weighs more than 800 kilos. It’s tough. But Ineos, it would rather be 850 kilos. Pinot’s team is less strong and the idea will therefore be to collapse the opposing scrum rather than moving it. “