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 to his glory line the narrow road that leads to the foot of the final climb. A deafening noise Rafale fighter plane splits the sky, giving this Friday, July 8 the air of a national holiday for the Vosges, which have become a frequent, even essential detour over the past ten years for the Tour de France, with a sixth passage since 2012. .
On the climb, the shuttles honk their horns to repel the reckless bitumen, galvanized by the imminent arrival of their idols. “One of the toughest hills in the world”loose Yoann, soldier in the regiment of Belfort, and follower of cycling. The expected human tide is acting up: the tricolor flags flutter, the five letters of the patronymic of the place of the stage scar the tar by the hundreds until the red flame. “We are encouraged by everyone, we are offered beers, but we can’t!”smiles Yoann.
At the top of the ultimate difficulty of this 7th stage, culminated for the occasion by a kilometer of dusty road as in 2019, Pierre and his clan are stamping their feet: he and his acolytes from the Collectif Ultras Pinot (CUP) – in reference to the Collectif Ultras Paris, which supports PSG, a club the cyclist adores, 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 care too much about it until Thibaut Pinot got back in shape this year, and so did we!”begins Humbert, one of the two founders. “It is above all a pleasure of friends who take up the mentality of the Ultras, which Pinot is fond of. It is precisely this discrepancy with the Ultras that makes us laugh, because there is not too much of that in the bike. But there are some mountain stages where it looks like a football stadium atmosphere”he specifies.
The range of proof of love for the occasion is wide: t-shirts “Come on Thibaut Pinot”flag with the head of the Franc-Comtois, and two “tifopino”: one taking up the colors of the CUP football version, the other inscribing “Go Pinot” on a makeshift tarp. “The idea was to do a bit like the tifos of football clubs, except that we were two in our attic with my father”smiles the one who slept there to reserve a place of choice just after the line.
To want to deploy such an arsenal of affection, Pierre and his friends have been viscerally attached to the climber for a long time. “My first idol was Andy Schleck. In 2012, he got injured on the Critérium du Dauphiné just before the Tour. I was disgusted, but I discovered this little guy named Thibaut Pinot, who won at Porrentruy”explains Peter. Guy, another member of the Collective, remembers his electroshock for Thibaut Pinot in 2009, during a training outing. “It was in the Ballon d’Alsace, he was not yet a professional. I was stopped in a hairpin, and I saw a rocket go up. That’s where I discovered the guy.” What peg the Franc-Comtois to the heart.
“For me, it’s beyond what he provokes on a bike: since 2009, I think he’s been the chosen one. His troubles have increased tenfold my love for this rider, whom I appreciate at the base for its potential.Guy, member of the Ultras Pinot Collective
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However, the sap of their affection for Pinot does not obstruct their lucidity vis-a-vis their colt: in spite of the Vosges furia, none imagined Pinot taking the race on his account. “I don’t prefer to dream too much. I know that either by his form or by the team play, there is little chance that he will win. I just hope he will have fun”noted Pierre at the start of the stage. “Beyond that, he has no legs. He comes out of the Covid, eight days off. You don’t stop like that just before the Tour without having consequences”continues Guy, flocked t-shirt from Collectif Ultras Pinot on the shoulders.
Dropped 4.2 kilometers from the summit, the Franc-Comtois had to resign himself to shine a stone’s throw from his native and current village, Mélisey. Despite a loving and conciliatory crowd with the one it cannot bring itself to let go of despite its setbacks, the Frenchman let Tadej Pogacar and others tame the asphalt and then the gravel of La Planche without him. “No Miracles”loose Pierre with a shrug when he sees on the screen his runner unclasped on the slope.
The timid onomatopoeia of disappointment quickly gave way to vibrant applause when the Frenchman crossed the line 2’26 behind the voracious Slovenian. “The atmosphere, as always, is magical. They (the public) were up to it, not me, and that’s a shame”dropped Pinot on arrival.
— Theo Gicquel (@theoogicquel) July 8, 2022
Fierce competitor that he is, the Frenchman was “definitely disappointed” not to have been able to influence the race. Too hard on himself? Coming out of Covid-19 which disrupted his pre-Tour preparation, the Franc-Comtois is not yet at full power. But whatever. At 32, after six stints in the Board (including a second place in 2014), no one in the Vosges asks him anything, if not to fight for them. “In the region, we haven’t had a great champion for a long time. But beyond that, it’s what he provokes in people, emotions”reminds Guy.
“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 an endearing guy, whatever happens . You can never blame him, because you know he strips himself, he’s the way he is. You can’t just love him when he’s good.” concludes Humbert, not disappointed for a penny of the 31st place of the Habs. Thibaut Pinot missed his meeting with La Planche a little, but popular intoxication for him remains at its zenith, and the CUP could well gain a few followers by the end of the Tour.