Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) has abandoned the Tour de France 2019, where he sat fifth in the overall classification, 1-50 down on Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step).
The Frenchman went to the medic car early on in stage 19, getting his left leg re-bandaged up just above the knee, before then going back to his team car.
Pinot soon found himself two minutes behind the peloton, and after 35km of racing he was in tears as his deficit increased to four minutes.
His team-mates didn’t wait for him when he initially dropped back, hinting that the Frenchman would struggle along for as long as possible before climbing off.
However, Mathieu Ladagnous eventually dropped back and put his arm around an emotional Pinot as he climbed off and got into his team car after just 40km of racing.
The cause of Pinot’s abandonment is apparently due to a muscle tear suffered on stage 17 to Gap, after hitting his left thigh against a handlebar.
This injury was still causing him pain on stage 18’s ascent of the Galibier, his Groupama-FDJ team have said, finishing with a sharp pain in his leg and struggling to walk in the evening. Although taking the start on stage 19, his condition hadn’t improved.
The stage to the summit of Tignes provided the penultimate mountain day in the 2019 Tour, with the final summit finish to Val Thorens on stage 20 the final chance to break Alaphilippe’s hold on the yellow jersey before the Champs-Élysées.
Pinot had been riding his best Tour de France in years, having announced himself as one of the strongest riders in the 2019 edition after winning stage 14 at the summit of the Tourmalet.
He followed up this victory with a second place on stage 15, finishing at the summit of Prat d’Albis, where he took further time back on his GC rivals.
Pinot had lost crucial time earlier in the race, finding himself on the wrong side of a peloton split after Alaphilippe and Ineos tore the bunch apart in crosswinds on stage 10.
The 29-year-old has not finished his previous two Tours de France, abandoning the 2016 and 2017 editions, and not taking the start line in last year’s race as he struggled to recover from fatigue and pneumonia in time.
He also abandoned the Tour in 2013, a year after his debut at the race where he finished tenth, before securing the third spot on the podium in 2014 behind Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Jean-Christophe Péraud.
We will bring you more on this story as it develops…