First five days can wreck Tour hopes: French hope Pinot

Fri Jul 4, 2014 2:05pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

LEEDS England (Reuters) - The peloton will breathe a collective sigh of relief if it makes it through the first five days of this year's Tour de France unscathed, according to French hope Thibaut Pinot.

Race director Christian Prudhomme thinks the opening stage from Leeds to Harrogate through the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday will be the toughest start since the race began in the Pyrenees in the last 1970s.

With rain and wind forecast and nine categorized climbs awaiting the riders on Sunday's 201-km route from York to Sheffield, the chance of thrills and spills is high.

While that will make for great viewing for TV fans and those lining the country lanes, the riders, always twitchy in the opening days, will be particularly nervy.

The last time the Tour started in Britain, in 2007, it was a stress-free prologue in London. But this will be proper racing, says Pinot who represents the best hope of a French challenge for the general classification.

"Sunday's stage is going to be spectacular," the rider told reporters in Leeds where preparations for Saturday's Grand Depart are complete. "We will need to be well positioned and vigilant.

"I did not check the weather yet but if it is raining or windy it could be a festival. I really believe one can lose the Tour in the first week."

Pinot, who was 10th overall in the 2012 Tour, winning a mountain stage, suffered last year after losing time on a descent and is hoping to make an impact this time.   Continued...

FDJ-Bigmat rider Thibaut Pinot of France cycles during the eighth stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Belfort and Porrentruy, July 8, 2012.     REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel