Tour of the Alps: Pinot surges to stage 5 win as Bardet grabs overall title.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) took his first victory in almost three years when he outsprinted David de la Cruz (Astana Qazaqstan) on the uphill finale in Lienz on the final stage of the Tour of the Alps.

It was a double celebration for French cycling as Romain Bardet (DSM) distanced Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) on the late climb of Stronach to claim final overall victory.

On a day of driving rain in Austria, there were two races in one, as Pinot and De la Cruz emerged as the strongmen from the day’s early break, while Bardet managed to rid himself of Bilbao in the finale to overhaul his two-second overnight deficit in the overall standings.

Bilbao’s Bahrain Victorious squad had been content to grant the early break considerable leeway, reasoning that they would hoover up the time bonuses, but in the end, the race was decided on sheer strength.

Bilbao was placed in difficulty when Richie Porte (Ineos) set a blistering pace on the lower slopes of short and steep climb of Stronach, and he was distanced irretrievably when Bardet took up the reins midway up the climb.

Bardet had teammate Thymen Arensman and former colleague Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ) for company as he crested the summit with a lead of 15 seconds over Bilbao. That trio combined smoothly on the final 8km to extend that advantage and share the top three places in the overall standings among them.

Bardet underscored his pre-Giro d’Italia for with overall victory, 14 seconds clear of Storer and 16 ahead of Arensman, while Bilbao had to settle for fourth overall at 37 seconds.

“It was super hard today, and the last climb was also the hardest of the race,” said Bardet. “I’m really happy to be able to win this one. I think we showed that we are a pretty strong team and we enjoy racing together.”

It was the first time Bardet had won the general classification of a race since he won the Tour de l’Ain nine years ago, but his relief was perhaps nothing compared to that felt by his compatriot Pinot, who hadn’t won since his victory atop the Col du Tourmalet on the 2019 Tour de France, with injury the keynote to his career ever since.

Ten minutes or so before Bardet began to take command of the Tour of the Alps, Pinot had distanced De la Cruz on the climb of Stronach, but the Spaniard fought his way back up to him on the descent.

It looked at that point as though Pinot might endure heartbreak at the hands of an Astana rider for the second successive day, but he showed considerable resolve to outkick De la Cruz in the final 200 metres.

“It’s a big relief for me to win. The Tour of the Alps is my favourite race and winning here is great for me,” said Pinot. “I had just one thought in my head today: to win. I knew that the break had a chance of going all the way to the finish, and it was tough course, very cold, conditions I liked.”

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