CHAMPAGNOLE, France, Sept 18 (Reuters) - While all Tour de France riders are hoping to enjoy the final parade on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday, Thibaut Pinot has ridden through the pain with another goal in mind since a back injury ruined his dream of overall victory in cycling's greatest race.
On Saturday, the decisive individual time trial will go through Melisey, Pinot's hometown in the Franche Comte region, which comes roughly 9kms into the 36.2-km route.
While his fans and family had been hoping to cheer their man on in the race leader's yellow jersey, Pinot will instead start the day with no specific goal after falling out of contention in the race's first stage in the Pyrenees.
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The 30-year-old, who came third overall in 2014 and had been in the mix for the title last year before he pulled out with a thigh injury two days from the finish, suffered a back injury in a crash near the end of the opening stage in Nice.
Since then, he has been hanging on for dear life.
"I didn't come here to finish 35th or 40th in the general classification," Pinot told reporters before the start of Friday's 19th stage.
"But I'm proud that I'm finishing this Tour. I fought the back pain every day, I fought with pride."
His Groupama-FDJ team manager Marc Madiot said Pinot could not have pulled out and seen the Tour riders whizz past his front lawn on Saturday.
"Imagine he had gone home last week, he would have seen the Tour go in front of his home. It would have been a scar he would have kept for life," said Madiot.
"(On Saturday) he needs to be on a bike in front of his family. Pinot, he's attached to his roots, his house, his garden, his animals," the Frenchman added.
"As a rider you have to ride with your heart. When the Tour went through Renaze (Madiot's hometown), I cried. Pinot has to go home with the Tour," Madiot added with tears in his eyes. (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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