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From the pretty village of Plancher-les-Mines, the last bastion of rest before the slopes of the Planche des Belles Filles, Thibaut Pinot appears everywhere. Posters of his glory line the narrow path that leads to the bottom of the final climb. A deafening noise from the Rafale fighter plane splits the sky, giving this Friday, July 8, an air of national holiday for the Vosges, which have become a frequent detour, even essential, in the last ten years for the Tour de France , with a sixth pass since 2012. .
On the way up, the ferries honk their horns to repel the daredevil bitumen, galvanized by the imminent arrival of their idols. “One of the hardest hills in the world”, released Yoann, soldier in the Belfort regiment, and fan of cycling. The expected human tide is acting: the tricolor flags wave, the five letters of the patronymic of the place of the stage heal the tar by the hundreds until the red flame. “Everyone cheers us on, they offer us beers, but we can’t!”Yoan smiles.
At the top of the maximum difficulty of this 7th stage, culminating for the occasion by a kilometer of dusty road as in 2019, Pierre and his clan are going strong: he and his acolytes of the Collectif Ultras Pinot (CUP) -referring to the Collectif Ultras Paris, which supports PSG, a club adored by the cyclist, is ready to celebrate the one everyone is waiting for.
This informal group of six people was created during the first wave of Covid-19, two years ago. “I didn’t worry too much until Thibaut Pinot got fit this year, and so did we!”begins Humbert, one of the two founders. “It is above all a pleasure for friends who take up the mentality of the Ultras, which Pinot likes. It is precisely this discrepancy with the Ultras that makes us laugh, because there is not much of that on the bike. But there are some mountain sections where it feels like a football stadium environment.”he says.
The range of proof of love for the occasion is wide: t-shirts “Come on Thibaut Pinot”flag with the head of Franco Comtois, and two “tiphopinos”: one with the colors of the soccer version of the COPA, the other with the inscription “Go Pinot” on a makeshift tarp. “The idea was to do a bit like the football club tifos, only there were two of us in our attic with my father”smiles the one who slept there to reserve a place of choice right after the line.
To want to display such an arsenal of affection, Pierre and his friends have long been viscerally attached to the climber. “My first idol was Andy Schleck. In 2012, he got injured at the Critérium du Dauphiné just before the Tour. I was upset, but I discovered this little guy named Thibaut Pinot, who won in Porrentruy.”Peter explains. Guy, another member of the Collective, remembers electroshocking him for Thibaut Pinot in 2009, during a training outing. “It was at the Ballon d’Alsace, I wasn’t professional yet. They stopped me at a hairpin, and I saw a rocket go up. That’s where I discovered the guy.” What sticks the Franco Comtois to the heart.
“For me it goes beyond what it causes on a motorcycle: since 2009 I think it is the chosen one. His problems have multiplied by ten my love for this pilot, whom I appreciate at the base for his potential.Guy, member of the Ultras Pinot Collective
on franceinfo: sport
However, the sap of his affection for Pinot does not obstruct his lucidity in front of his colt: despite the fury of the Vosges, no one imagined Pinot taking the race on his own. “I don’t prefer to dream too much. I know that either because of his form or because of the team’s play, there is little chance that he will win. I just hope you have fun.”, noted Pierre at the start of the stage. “Other than that, he has no legs. She comes out of Covid, eight days off. You don’t stop like this just before the Tour without consequences.”Guy continues, Collectif Ultras Pinot flocked t-shirt on the shoulders.
Falling 4.2 kilometers from the summit, the Franco-Comtois had to resign himself to shining a stone’s throw from his hometown and current village, Mélisey. Despite an affectionate and conciliatory public with whom he does not dare to let go despite his setbacks, the Frenchman let Tadej Pogacar and others tame the asphalt and then the dirt of La Planche without him. “Without miracles”he lets go of Pierre with a shrug when he sees on the screen his jogger unbuttoned on the slope.
The timid onomatopoeia of disappointment quickly gave way to vibrant applause as the Frenchman crossed the finish line 2’26 behind the ravenous Slovenian. “The atmosphere, as always, is magical. They (the public) were up to the task, not me, and it’s a shame”dropped Pinot on arrival.
The arrival of Thibaut Pinot at home, at the top of the Super Planche des Belles Filles. Ovation of his public for the premises, too fair for the victory #PTO2022 pic.twitter.com/j0PDl1atHG
— Theo Gicquel (@theoogicquel) July 8, 2022
Fierce competitor as he is, the Frenchman was “definitely disappointed” not having been able to influence the race. Too hard on yourself? Coming off the Covid-19 that interrupted his pre-Tour preparation, the Franco Comtois is not yet at his full power. But whatever. At 32 years old, after six spells on the Board (including a second place in 2014), no one in the Vosges asks him for anything, if not that he fight for them. “In the region we haven’t had a great champion for a long time. But beyond that, it is what provokes in people, emotions”Guy remembers.
“What makes us vibrate is when he plays the general. There a little less, but who cares, we take what there is to take. He’s a lovable guy, no matter what. You can never blame him, because you know he gets naked, he is how he is. You can’t just love him when he’s good.” concludes Humbert, not disappointed by a penny of the Habs’ 31st place. Thibaut Pinot missed his meeting with La Planche a bit, but popular intoxication for him is still raging, and the CUP could well gain some supporters at the end of the Tour.