The Frenchman (Groupama-FDJ) was in a five-man group loitering behind Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) in GC deep into the final week, but his hopes disintegrated on Stage 19 due to a thigh injury.
As expected, compatriot Alaphilippe cracked later in the stage and, after landslides caused a premature end to the day’s racing, Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) moved into the yellow jersey.
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Pinot was in tears as he abandoned after barely 30 kilometres, with the 29-year-old revealing his torment to French outlets L’Equipe and Le Monde.
"I’ve done seven Tours and had four abandons, when on other races, I never abandon. It only happens on Grand Tours, even though they are my races," he told L’Equipe.
To forget all this, all these struggles, only a win will do. A podium won’t suffice anymore. To forget all this, yes, I will need to win the Tour.
Pinot was imperious on Stages 14 and 15, gaining time on his rivals as he emerged as a serious threat to compatriot Alaphilippe before disaster struck on Stage 18 to Valloire.
A thigh injury left him "pedalling on one leg", leading Le Monde to question whether he could have beaten eventual champion Bernal.
"For me, it’s destiny, and I’m taking it like that," he said. "In my head, I was impatient to get to the Alps. I had no fear. Maybe Egan Bernal would have been stronger, but I was ahead of him on GC and I don’t see why three days after Prat d’Albis [on Stage 15] my condition would have been less good. I was ready.
"We’ll never know, and I don’t want to ask myself that question. I was on one leg, that’s all."