Chris Froome was equal to the task as he retained fourth place overall following stage three at the Tour of the Alps.
Froome now sits 16 seconds back on Pinot with two stages to go.
Describing the day Froome explained: "It was a short but intense stage today and it was a very tactical race. Astana had the numbers there today, so for me logically it made sense to stick with them and work with them on the final climb to bring back the attacks that had gone earlier in the day.
He explained: "A break went after around 30km and after that it was pretty quiet until the penultimate climb. Straight from the bottom of the Passo della Mendola it was full gas attacking, including GC contenders. We tried to manage it and to keep Froomey in a good position without doing too much effort. But quickly it became very hard as there were constant attacks.
"In the end with David we tried to pace it in order to stay up front. Then when Pinot went we tried to lean on Astana to work. But quickly the group got one minute, so we had to try on the final climb to really go hard. The plan was to try to reduce the gap and then maybe Froomey could cross. In the end he was able to do that which was good.
"But it was a good bike race and a lot of effort. It's nice to race full-on like this. I'm feeling good and it's nice to be up there every day. My plan across the week is to try and be as consistent as possible."
Stage three result:
1. Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) 3:30:05
2. Thibault Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +5"
3. Dominico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) +5”
4. George Bennett (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) s.t.
5. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) s.t.
1. Thibault Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) 10:52:19
2. Dominico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) +15”
3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) s.t.
4. Chris Froome (Team Sky) +16”
5. Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) +50”