AG2R La Mondiale have named the team that will back Romain Bardet in his bid at this year’s Tour de France. The eight-man line-up includes Pierre Latour, Belgian champion Oliver Naesen and Paris-Roubaix runner-up Silvan Dillier.
“We are not the favourites, but we have an outsider capable of making the race hard,” said AG2R La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu.
Bardet has finished in the top 10 of the Tour de France’s general classification in each of his last four appearances, and made the podium in the last two. In 2017, Bardet was almost knocked off the podium in the final time trial but made it through by a single second ahead of Team Sky’s Mikel Landa.
With such a varied and challenging parcours in the opening week of the Tour de France, the difficulty for the directeur sportifs has been to select a line-up that can cover all eventualities. Naesen and Dillier will be key riders for Bardet in the first week, with cobbles and crosswinds on the cards. Dillier enjoyed a breakthrough performance at this year’s Paris-Roubaix, which covered many of the cobbled sectors featured in stage 9 of the Tour, and finished second to Peter Sagan after spending the day in the breakaway.
Bardet will have a strong support network in the mountains with Latour, Axel Domont, Alexis Vuillermoz, Alexandre Geniez, who recently rode the Giro d’Italia, and Tony Gallopin. Vuillermoz, who abandoned the Dauphine after a crash on stage 1, will return to the scene of his 2015 Tour de France stage victory on day six when the race heads to the Mur de Bretagne, and he will be looking to have the opportunity to do the double. Gallopin is also a former stage winner and will be a link between the Classics specialists and the pure climbers.
Perhaps, the most notable absence is Mikael Cherel, who has been an important support rider for Bardet over the years. He rode the Giro d’Italia alongside Geniez but he abandoned on stage 19 following a death in the family and has not raced since. He missed last year’s race due to injury. Cyril Gautier has also missed out on selection, for the first time since 2010.
Bardet has one win so far this season with victory at the Classic de l'Ardèche back in February. He finished second at Strade Bianche in March and took his first Monument podium at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The 27-year-old took a break following the Ardennes and returned to racing at the Criterium du Dauphine, where he finished third behind Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
The 2018 Tour de France gets underway in Noirmoutier-en-l'Île on July 7.
AG2R La Mondiale for the Tour de France: Alexandre Geniez, Oliver Naesen, Tony Gallopin, Romain Bardet, Pierre Latour, Axel Domont, Silvan Dillier, Alexis Vuillermoz.