Thibaut Pinot with open heart in an exclusive interview: “The bike is nothing next to all that”

How are you coping with this pandemic and the deaths of these thousands of people? Are you worried ?
Thibaut Pinot:I am not personally affected by the virus but around my home, many people are and in a rather serious way. I know that this confinement is not like that, it is because the situation is serious, for a good cause, for our health, so I encourage everyone to stay at home so that we can move on as quickly as possible.

You say you are not directly affected but your parents are confronted with the virus in their work?
T.P.:Yes, my mother is a nurse and my father works in funeral directors, these are two jobs where you are in contact with the virus. They know this is a difficult time, they are exposed, they are very careful. We live less than a kilometer from each other but we try not to see each other anymore, because they can catch the virus and I worry because it is very dangerous and we can all catch it …

Thibaut Pinot, great lover of carp fishing © DR

How do you experience containment?
T.P.: For now, I’m living pretty well, you’ll say, since I’m at rest since the end of Paris-Nice. I live it in the normal way, I'm not afraid of not training so I don't have that concern. But when it's going to be the recovery, then there, doing the home trainer will quickly piss me off (sic), so it's going to be more complicated.

Where do you live this confinement?
T.P.: I'm at home in Melisey, I'm lucky to be in the deep countryside, I can go fishing in my pond right next to my house and take care of my animals, I have something to take care of… “

During this period without a bike, you even took the opportunity to create an Instagram account for your biquettes!
T.P.:(Laughs) Yes, I created an insta account for them with my girlfriend because we were bored one afternoon! I give them the bottles because I have time to do it … Many are bored right now. I don’t get bored for a minute, it takes energy. In these times, it does me good.

Thibaut Pinot with one of his biquettes
Thibaut Pinot with one of his biquettes © DR

You are in rest period you said it but do you maintain a minimum?
At the physical level, I do a little cladding in the morning and a little walking…

Do you feel like you've done your winter preparation for nothing?
T.P.: I am not yet in this frustration there because finally, I took these ten days of rest a little earlier than planned, because I had to do the Tour of Catalonia. But having finished in fifth place in Paris-Nice, I know that I did not do that for nothing. When you cut as long as I did after the Tour (note: three months), there was a lot of work to come back, so I'm not frustrated. I was a little scared after such a cut last year, but I had good training periods, especially in Tenerife on the Teide volcano. But in February at the Tour de Provence and the Tour of the Alpes-Maritimes and Var, I did not have good feelings at all, I took no pleasure because my feelings were really bad … I started to doubt and then during the last two stages of Paris-Nice, I reassured myself and returned to a very good level.

Thibaut Pinot at the finish of the 7th and last stage of Paris-Nice 2020
Thibaut Pinot at the finish of the 7th and last stage of Paris-Nice 2020 © AFP – Alain JOCARD

When are you supposed to start training again?
T.P.:From Thursday or this weekend, it depends on the weather, uh no, we don't care at the end of the weather (laughs), I'm going to go back up on the trainer Thursday or Friday….

You who like to ride in nature and in the mountains, it should not really enchant you?
T.P .:I think my record on home trainer is 1:30! I can't stand playing sports in a closed environment, especially when the weather is good. It’s even harder! I do not want to wear myself mentally, I will do 1:30 maximum with a little cladding, I am waiting to see how long the confinement will last, I do not want to think about it now especially if it lasts six weeks…

It is said that the confinement could last until the beginning of May …
T.P.:I pretend not to hear… (laughs)

But in confinement, the home trainer will be your way of keeping in touch with the bike even if it has nothing to do with what you do in road training for four, five or six hours …
Yes, that has nothing to do with it! I don’t know if we’re really working on a home trainer. We lose a lot of mineral salts, we sweat a lot, I think it's not very good to do too much home trainer …

“Some drive and put on networks to taunt”

How do you live this prohibition to go driving on the road, you whose job it is?
T.P.: I respect the rules and instructions of the state and my team. It’s the same for everyone. Here, we are coming out of a harsh winter, where it rained a lot, we are entering a good period, it's frustrating but you have to accept it, not get angry and keep calm….

What do you think of professional cyclists or runners who will ride despite the calls to stay dear?
T.P.:I'm sorry, I see some people who do this and put it on social networks to taunt others a little. There, we talk about pros who ride and who show it, it makes us angry to see that. And even if some people have the right to do it in their country, you don't have to put it on social media! “

Understood, you don't like the home trainer but could we see you on races on home trainers connected via the Zwift application very popular with runners, especially during confinement?
T.P.: Maybe I will come there, I will not think about it now but we may be obliged if the confinement lasts. But I have to start again before training because on these races, things go very quickly. You have to take it day after day, it's the same for everyone …

Are you afraid in this context of confinement to gain weight? Are you particularly careful?
T.P.: For the moment, since I am in the middle of a cut, I’m not thinking about it, but after a month and a half, it will be a real concern. After the races, I gradually regained my form weight. For me, the hardest part is that I will regain my two pounds as a cut. But we know very well that we must try to eat fewer calories than we spend, avoid carbohydrates and everything that is sweet, we avoid bad things. I am naturally quite often outside, I don't think about eating too much but I tend to like good food. For me, the hardest part is the winter when I gain three kilos which are hard to lose …

We imagine that it must be complicated to train without a goal, without knowing for what race you are doing it?
T.P.: At the moment I have the impression that I am in October and that I will be riding the bike again with little outings. There is no point in going on six-hour outings, we try not to think about it. There's no point in taking the lead, we don't have a date, we don't know anything, when we have race dates and when we have the right, we'll go back on the roads, but until there we must wait. We are very much in the peloton in the same case …

But after three weeks or even a month without riding for a professional runner, is it very complicated and very long to return to your best level?
T.P.:15 days it's still going. Last year, I did it after the Tour of Catalonia and a month and a half later, I was among the best on the Dauphiné. But from a month, it is comparable to the winter break and there, it takes us three months to return. 15 days without riding is the maximum to be ready for the Tour in early July.

“If the Tour is canceled, it will mean that the pandemic has worsened”

Are you worried that the Tour de France will be postponed or even canceled?
T.P.:I would be especially worried because if we cancel it, it would mean that the pandemic has worsened. I don't know if ASO (editor's note: Amaury Sport Organization, the organizer of the Tour) can delay it. But yes it can be postponed or deleted, and yes that worries me because a year without the Tour and without a Grand Tour is a complicated year …

If the Tour were canceled, it would be a year for nothing, especially for you who are in your best years …
T.P.: Yes, for sure, this year, it’s a course that suits me completely, I’m in my best years, I’m 30 years old, I’m on top. It would be a lost year but I do not know if afterwards, all the races will be linked in July, August and the months that follow …

Conversely, if the Tour took place as planned and the confinement was to last until May, would it be possible to be ready with only two months of training?
T.P.:It’s complicated if you start training seriously in early May to be ready in early July. We would be 90%, but on the Tour, you have to be 100%. It’s not enough to be with the best…

Thibaut Pinot during his victory at the top of Tourmalet, in the Tour de France 2019
Thibaut Pinot during his victory at the top of Tourmalet, in the Tour de France 2019 © AFP – Anne-Christine POUJOULAT

What about the Olympic Games? Canada has announced that it will not send its athletes this summer to Tokyo, certain federations or sportsmen are asking for the postponement of the Games, what is your position you who must be the leader of the French team in Tokyo?
T.P.:I think especially of the athletes for whom the Games are vital, for three-quarters of the disciplines, it is vital, such as athletics, swimming or other sports. We are lucky to have the Tour as a showcase, for them it's the Olympic Games, in the end for us the important thing will be to be there …

But are you asking for the postponement of the Games?
T.P.:I have no opinion on this. I’m just for everyone to be on an equal footing, I prefer that everyone can prepare for 100% all disciplines and all nations.

Are you planning a summer without a Tower or an Olympic Games?
T.P.:It's hard because it's so far away, I find it hard to project myself so far. What happens is surreal, it feels like a series, I find it hard to realize what is happening. If we are asked to project ourselves at the beginning of August, it is that what is happening is really very important …

“I find it hard to think that an entire season could be canceled”

Do you fear a white season?
T.P.:Yes, we all fear it. We especially hope that we no longer talk about the virus but I find it hard to think that an entire season could be canceled …

Are you also afraid for your sport economically, in other words that the economic consequences are very important for cycling?
T.P.:I think that the economic consequences of a sleepless year can hurt everyone, riders, in terms of contracts, but especially for amateurs who want to go pro, for neo-pros… There are a lot of uncertainties for other sports too. There is nothing positive about it as in society in general, for all companies. We are all staying in the same boat…

You who are a big fan of football, you must not miss watching matches on TV?
Yes I miss it, it's weird not to see any more sport, there are no more races, there are only reruns. I don’t turn on the TV anymore, I’ve not been watching TV for ten days.

And I suppose you must have been very happy with the qualification of PSG in the quarter-finals of the Champions League?
Yes I’m happy, I don’t think the Champions League is going to be canceled but it can slow PSG’s momentum. When we win as they faced Dortmund, it puts you in a super dynamic and there we will have to mobilize everyone …

Do you still dream of the Tour?
T.P.:I don’t think about it too much in my head, I left to resume at the Dauphiné, it’s the only race that is in my head, it’s the Dauphiné. That would mean that the pandemic is over and that everything is better, it is more in this perspective that I think about it.

In the end, would you say that the bike comes to the fore for you in the face of the gravity of the current situation?
T.P.: The bike at the moment is completely ridiculous. There is so much more important than knowing whether the Tour is going to be canceled or postponed. That’s why I don’t complain and if I have to train for a month, I’m not allowed to complain. We are in a somewhat unreal situation and the bike is nothing next to all that!

What do you want to say to people who like you or do you have any advice for them?
I am in a bad position to give advice. The only thing I can give is to stay at home and respect the confinement rules so that we can return to our roads. But there are people better placed than me to give advice…

Interview by Nicolas Geay


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