Thibaut Pinot, the winner of yesterday’s individual time trial at the Critérium International, landed a double blow by claiming the closing stage to Col de l’Ospedale and consummating his overall victory. The Frenchman won the 85th edition, held in Corsica, by 37″ over Pierre Latour and 46″ over Sam Oomen. Pinot’s maiden victory in the Critérium International will dial down the pressure as he gears up for the rest of the season, with the Tour de France marked in red on his calendar in July.
Weather conditions were perfect for the final stage of the Critérium International, just like the day before. The 120-strong peloton set off from Porto-Vecchio harbour shortly after 11 am for a 171.5 km trek to Col de l’Ospedale under sunny skies. It was a hectic start, with the peloton riding flat out to shut down any breakaway attempts and the average speed for the first hour clocking at an impressive 48.8 km.
It was not until Col de Larone, the first climb of the day, that a seven-rider group composed of Gautier (ALM), Delaplace (FVC), Moser (CPT), Chetout (COF), Voeckler (DEN), Di Gregorio and Pacher (DMP) managed to escape. Di Gregorio led the breakaway over the top as the peloton trailed by 45″. The gap had ballooned to 2′50″ by the time the Delko – Marseille Provence leader grabbed an extra 6 mountain points atop the never-raced-before Col de Bavella. The second climb of the day was too much for Delaplace and he was dropped by the other six riders.
Meanwhile, the peloton was gradually inching closer under the impetus of yellow jersey Thibaut Pinot’s FDJ team, bringing the gap down to 1′40″ at the top of the third climb, Col de Bacinu. Mourey (FVC) was hovering 1′20″ behind the breakaway, but the Frenchman’s ill-fated attempt to catch the escapees ended on the following descent.
Although the gap had risen back to 2′05″ at the top of the fourth climb, Côte de Ceccia (km 128.5), where Di Gregorio again took maximum points, by this point in the race the yellow-jersey group seemed firmly in control of things. Di Gregorio beat Moser and Pacher at the second intermediate sprint in Porto-Vecchio (km 154), with the peloton a mere 55″ back. After Pacher and Chetout were dropped 15 km before the line, the four men left in front were caught with under 10 km to go.
The leader’s group was down to just 25 men, with Coppel (IAM), who started the day in second place overall, conspicuously absent. Latour (ALM) launched the first attack 8 km from the line, taking teammate and defending champion Péraud with him. The duo failed to open a significant gap and, while Latour soldiered on, Péraud was caught and subsequently dropped. Latour held a 13″ margin with 3 km to go.
However, a blistering attack by Pinot tore the favorites’ group apart. The yellow jersey caught Latour and then powered away from him under the flamme rouge. The FDJ leader had a 8″ gap with 500 m to go and went on to claim the stage by 7″ over Latour and 12″ over Jeannesson (COF).
Pinot won the general classification by 37″ over Latour and 46″ over Oomen —the first ever victory in the Critérium International for the rider from Franche-Comté, who also won the points classification. Di Gregorio took home the mountains jersey, while the up-and-coming Pierre Latour was rewarded with the white jersey for the best young rider.