There is only ever one winner in cycling. Rarely has it felt like more of a shame than on stage four of the Tour of the Alps, when Thibaut Pinot was caught within the final kilometre and consigned to second place.
The Frenchman has had to endure an enormous amount of trials and tribulations during his career, with injury keeping him from fulfilling his undeniable potential in the last few years.
Since a crash at the 2020 Tour de France, the Groupama-FDJ rider has been working to come back to his top level. While Thursday's result was his first second place since the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné, it clearly was not enough.
Collapsing to the floor soon after the finish line, Pinot looked like a man who had given it all, and yet that was not enough to hold off Miguel Ángel López, who powered past him with about 900m to go.
"It pisses me off…" an emotional Pinot began, before pausing to regain his composure. "It pisses me off because it would have been good for me after the last two years I’ve been through…"
He last won a race at the 2019 Tour, when he looked like he could be in with a chance of victory, the Tour victory by a Frenchman that France has been waiting since 1985 for.
His chance on Thursday came after he infiltrated the day's breakaway, which moved clear with just 80km to go. Pinot made his decisive move with 10km to go, on the lower slopes up to Kals Am Grossglockner, where the stage finished.
While it looked for a time like he might hold out to the finish, the peloton was not far behind, with López lurking within it.
Pinot has suffered from back pain since the 2020 Tour, and last year was the first since 2012 in which he did not race a Grand Tour. However, he is scheduled to take part in this year's Grande Boucle, and so is looking to be back to his best for them.
"At my normal level, nobody would have caught up with me there," the 31-year-old explained after the stage. "That's what's frustrating. I wish it [fortune] would smile on me one day. I’ll have to be patient."
Perhaps he needs to take inspiration from the Earl of Kent in Shakespeare's King Lear, who asks fortune to "smile once more; turn thy wheel". There are few riders that could do with a change in fortune as much as Pinot.
He has won 31 races across his career, something that anyone that looks at his bike can't avoid - the titles are listed on his top tube.
However, Pinot has finished second on stages and races 35 times overall, proving that with a bit more luck, he could have had a much longer palmarés.
He knows, that although he is only 31, there will never be too many more opportunities, even if he does return to his best.
"It was another good chance to win and there aren’t many as a pro," the Frenchman said in Kals Am Grossglockner. "We’ll see, we’ll see tomorrow and in the coming weeks. It would have done me good to win today.
"I could have turned that s***ty page and moved on to something else."
What was clear was that Pinot had given it all on Thursday. It is just that his all simply remains not enough.
« Ça fait chier parce que ça m'aurait fait du bien (...) j'aurais pu tourner cette page de merde et passer à autre chose »💬 L'émotion de Thibaut Pinot après sa 2e place sur la 4e étape du Tour des Alpes #lequipeVELO pic.twitter.com/F1QT0o2tnVApril 21, 2022
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