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It started with Thibaut Pinot, heartbroken after stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia to Crans-Montana, where the Groupama-FDJ rider ended up on the losing end of a three-rider mind game and described EF Education-EasyPost’s Alex Cepeda as “a big thorn” in his side and rode against him.
On Sunday, the resentment spilled over onto social media with EF-EasyPost boss Jonathan Vaughters, and Pinot’s reply, starting a lengthy thread of insults between fans that drew in none other than Lance Armstrong.
On stage 13, Pinot, Cepeda and Einer Rubio (Movistar) were well clear of the remnants of the day’s breakaway and engaged in a tactical battle into a headwind on the summit finale. Cepeda had nullified several of Pinot’s attacks but refused to pull through.
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Pinot chastised Cepeda several times, trying to goad him into working. Instead, Cepeda attacked, forcing the Frenchman to expend his energy to chase him down. In the end, neither rider had enough left as Rubio – lying low the whole time – leapt away to the stage victory.
A distraught Pinot spent several long minutes slumped head-down over his bars before telling the media that “Whatever happened, I didn’t want [Cepeda] to win”.
Then, on Sunday, when EF-EasyPost’s Ben Healy came second from another three-man escape, missing out on a hard-fought stage to Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Vaughters observed on Twitter: “Proud to see that @_BHealyyy congratulated the winner, and didn’t go cry to the media about how life is sometimes unfair. Great attitude. Great person. Great rider.”
The reference obvious, another user replied “Just @ him you coward” to which Vaughters replied, “No sure he @ThibautPinot could read it through all of his tears.”
Pinot replied, “Who are you?”
Not one to give up an opportunity to publicly insult one of his former teammates that helped expose the systemic doping at US Postal and get him banned for life, Lance Armstrong soon piped in to respond to Pinot: “Who is he? He’s a fucking (clown emoji). At least based on the 30+ years I’ve known him.”
Former racers aside, both Pinot and Healy have had exceptional performances at the Giro d’Italia. Healy won stage 8 to Fossombrone after being in the breakaway all day and then was second on stage 15‘s mini-Il Lombardia stage to Bergamo.
Pinot moved into the blue mountains classification leader’s jersey after the Crans-Montana stage but gave it up on stage 14 when former leader Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa) got into the breakaway and claimed the maximum points on the sole category 1 ascent.
Healy gained enough mountain points to move into fourth behind Bais, Rubio and Pinot, now 36 points off the lead. When asked if Healy would try to fight for the final KOM prize, Vaughters replied, “Kinda seems like he’s interested, eh? Hard to say if he can go over the really big mountains in the 3rd week, as he’s never done that before. But I guess we are going to find out!”