TIGNES, France (AP) — Thibaut Pinot’s remarkable Tour de France ended in pain and tears within touching distance of Paris as the Frenchman was forced to abandon the race with a left leg injury on Friday.
Pinot, who brought excitement to the race in the Pyrenees last week with strong attacks and posted a prestigious stage win at the top of the Tourmalet, had hoped to make the most of the last two Alpine stages to close the gap on race leader Julian Alaphilippe.
A muscular injury sustained when he swerved to avoid a crash earlier in the final week proved too painful when Stage 19 started at a brisk pace, said Philippe Mauduit, a sports director on Pinot’s Groupama-FDJ team.
Mauduit said the discomfort was bearable on the flat but not when the road started to veer sharply uphill in the Alps. The team said Pinot had difficulty walking after Stage 18, the first of three big climbing days in the Alps
“The pain was too much,” Mauduit told French TV. “It was just not possible to continue.”
Pinot had been 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe heading into Saturday’s Stage 19 to the ski station of Tignes.
Pinot, who had built his whole season around the Tour, called for medical assistance in the small Montee d’Aussois climb, about 93 kilometers from the finish. The FDJ-Groupama leader had his thigh bandaged by the race doctor but his pedaling did not improve as he struggled at the back of the pack, with tears running down his face.
The 29-year-old Pinot then stopped on the side of the road and had the bandage removed by a team assistant. He rode for a few extra kilometers before calling it quits, tearfully resting an arm across the shoulders of a teammate offering support and sympathy.
Pinot then got off his bike and disappeared into a team car.
A third-place finisher at the 2014 Tour, Pinot skipped cycling’s marquee race last year to focus on the Giro d’Italia, where he was also forced to abandon because of pneumonia while fighting for the title.
With Pinot out of the race, French hopes of producing a homegrown Tour winner for the first time in 34 years fully rest upon Alaphilippe.