The Spanish Grand Tour opened with a bang as riders took on a 173km stage in the Basque Country, finishing atop the Alto de Arrate.
As the reigning Vuelta champion Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) rode to a commanding stage victory, some of the biggest names in the race fell casualty to a brutal first stage.
Froome was dropped on the penultimate climb of the day, as his Ineos Grenadiers team set a fierce pace on the front for their leader Richard Carapaz.
Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was also dropped on the same climb, as his Grand Tour hopes crumbled for the second time this year after his failed Tour de France bid.
The Frenchman finished the stage in 63rd place, 9-56 down on the stage winner, while Froome was not far behind in 72nd, 11-12 off the pace.
This year’s Vuelta a España exploded on only the first day of racing, with Roglič, Carapaz, Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Esteban Chaves emerging as the strongest.
Others to fall behind on the final climb include Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), Alejandro Valerde (Movistar) and Wout Poels (Bahrain-McLaren), who each lost at least a minute by the summit of the 5km-long, 8.5 per cent average Alto de Arrate.
Froome lost contact with the main group around 16km from the finish on the Elgata climb (2.9km at 8.8 per cent), but very briefly managed to regain contacted before his team-mates ramped up the pace to try and set up Carapaz for the stage.
The two-time Vuelta winner said he was hoping to support Carapaz as he was still unsure about his own form after his awful crashed at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné. Froome sounded positive after the race saying he hoped to continue building into better form throughout the race.
“For me personally I got a bit caught out coming into the penultimate climb, started pretty far back and got stuck behind the crahs at the bottom there,” Froome said at the finish of stage one.
“But I’m really happy to be here, really happy to be racing a Grand Tour after two years of not doing any Grand Tours and I’m just going to take the race day by day and keep trying to do us much for the team as I can throughout the race.
“Sensations were good, I think I still miss a little bit of that top-end from not having raced much but definitely an improvement and hope to keep building throughout the race.”
Pinot had hoped to challenge for the 2020 Tour de France, but fell out of contention in the first week, finally finishing 29th in Paris.
His hopes of a consolation prize at the Vuelta fell away on stage one.