Thibaut Pinot has already raced against Chris Froome and Alberto Contador this season but will head to the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday for the first time in five years for an important pre-Tour de France shakedown.
The Frenchman has always chosen the Tour de Suisse as his preparatory June outing but has changed his schedule this year to race what has become the more definitive Tour prelude. Nairo Quintana is the only notable absentee from the big favourites for July, with Froome and Contador joined by Vuelta a España winner Fabio Aru, along with Richie Porte and Romain Bardet.
“It is certain that the big Tour de France favourites come to this race,” Pinot said in an interview with the Dauphiné’s website.
“When I scheduled my programme, I wasn’t necessarily preoccupied with knowing who would be here, because all the races are difficult to win. But it is very interesting to see exactly where I am against the competition.”
Pinot has gone up against Contador twice this season and has come off second best on both occasions, finishing fourth as the Spaniard won the Vuelta al País Vasco and fourth earlier in the year at the Volta ao Algarve, where Contador was second.
He was second behind Quintana – who was third at País Vasco – at the Tour de Romandie but some way ahead of Froome, who finished the race some 21 minutes back. It all adds up to Pinot’s best start to a season, which included the overall win at Critérium International, and he has finished no lower than fifth in the six stage races he has entered.
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