As the gruppetto rolled across the finish line in Cervinia on Saturday afternoon, many faces were creased into broad smiles of relief that the worst of their labours on this Giro d’Italia had finally come to an end. The most elite passenger aboard this particular bus, however, wore an expression of a very different hue. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was masked in suffering as he leant over his handlebars, his chest heaving amid incessant coughs.
After descending the mountain, Pinot was reportedly taken to hospital to be treated for exhaustion, dehydration and respiratory problems. It remains to be seen whether he will be in any state to complete his Giro in Rome on Sunday afternoon.
Groupama-FDJ director Martial Gayant later went on French TV Sport to say that Pinot would not take the start of the final stage in Rome, choosing to abandon the race after spending the evening under medical observation at hospital in Aosta. The team said in an earlier Twitter update that the rider was suffering from dehydration and fever.
Pinot had begun the Giro’s penultimate stage in third place overall, buoyed by a gritty display on the tappone to Bardonecchia the previous afternoon. At the start in Susa, he had spoken optimistically of retaining a podium place in the face of a likely offensive from Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).
Come the day’s penultimate climb, the Col de Saint-Pantaléon, the tone of his entire race had changed. As Astana set the tempo at the head of the peloton, Pinot was floundering off the rear. His teammates Steve Morabito, Sebastien Reichenbach and Jeremy Roy dropped back to come to the aid of their leader.
Gels were passed up from the team car, as Pinot’s pedalling slowed almost to a halt. After straining every sinew to keep pace with the best through the final week, he had nothing left. It was already clear that there was no way back.
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