Romain Bardet believes that the 2018 Tour de France route suits him better than this year’s race, but added that there is plenty of work to do to make sure that he is in the shape to back that up. Bardet finished third in July, 2:20 behind Chris Froome (Team Sky), his second visit to the Tour podium in as many years.
With the short, punchy stages, bruising mountain tests, downhill finishes and a hilly individual time trial, Bardet stands a clear chance of making it three podium finishes in a row and it provides him an opportunity to try to rattle Froome from his throne. With just over eight months until the race rolls out from Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile, there is still plenty to do says the 26-year-old.
“Yes, I think so but I have to do a big work rate to try to get to my best and to try to make it happen,” Bardet told Cyclingnews when asked if the route favoured him more than the previous offering. “It is a good balance between the marathon stages and the short stages it can make the race really interesting.”
Bardet added that even with the dramatically different race route, Froome remains the man to beat as he looks to take his fifth title.
“Whatever the parcours, he will be the favourite because he already won it four times. It is something really big and he has the best team for that and he is still the big favourites,” Bardet said.
A touch of fear
There were audible gasps from the audience and murmurs of interest from the riders as the route of the 2018 Tour de France was unveiled in the auditorium of the Palais de Congres in Paris on Tuesday afternoon. The camera panned to Bardet as the profile of the 200km test from Lourdes to Laruns on stage 19 was presented on the big screen. Unaware of the attention, Bardet’s expression betrayed a level of curiosity but a touch of fear and awe knowing what his legs would be put through in a few short months.
“I said, ‘Oh, that’s big and it promises to be explosive,’” he smiled, reflecting on the stage that will put them over four major climbs, including the Aspin, the Tourmalet and the Aubisque. “There are a lot of new things in this Tour and there is an insecurity because it will be unpredictable for the leader and that is what makes the race really attractive. I think it is good for cycling.”
Before the general classification riders can even close in on the mountains, they must pick their way through an opening week that is fraught with danger. Where this year saw repeated sprint stages in the first days, 2018 promises to throw something else at the riders with a team time trial, the Mur de Bretagne and a ride over the pavé and into Roubaix. As the old adage goes, you can’t win the Tour in the first week but you sure can lose it.
Bardet believes that teammates will be key for the general classification riders if they don’t want to throw away their opportunity at a good result so early in the race. Overall, he appeared quite positive about the parcours, praising the organisers for a very balanced route.
“The first week will be a really collective week. Not only with the team time trial, but also with the wind and the cobbles. If you don’t have the guys around you to keep out of trouble then you could for sure lose everything in this week,” he explained.
“Almost every day you can have a problem in the first week. There are no mountain finishes in the first part of the race and there will be a lot of riders still in the mix. It will be really stressful for everyone, but in week two and three, there are some big mountainous stages. There is a good balance between the two aspects of the race, and I’m really looking forward to racing it.”