The third and fourth stages of the Presidential Tour of Turkey saw the emergence of Romain Bardet (AG2R). The 21-year-old Frenchman climbed his way to fifth place overall with strong performances in the Turkish mountains, and is looking to go even higher.
He finished fifth in the third stage, but was frustrated not to have finished second behind winner Ivaïlo Gabrovski (Konya Torku Seker Spor). He attacked twice near the end, but was unable to get away and finally was passed by three other riders at the end of the climb.
In the last 2km, I got vertigo”, Bardet said. “It’s my fault. This is new to me. I wasn’t nervous because I race here with no pressure. I have no obligation to perform but that’s still the goal. Considering the legs I had in the climb, I would have liked to do better.
Romain Lemarchand and Sylvain Georges positioned me well. For them, I would have liked to finish higher than fifth. I don’t know myself as a rider yet. I have to discover my abilities slowly but surely.”
He first came to notice in the Amstel Gold Race, where he was in the break group for 208 km, caught only with 10km to go. “It was a sign of form, a lot of pleasure and a good experience for the future but that was only a breakaway”, the rider from the Alps told Cyclingnews at the start of the Tour of Turkey in Alanya.
I’m a real competitor. I ride my bike for raising my arms in the air. Shall I not win a race in my first year pro, it wouldn’t be a drama, but I have a well balanced program that allows me to discover races at the highest level and to get a chance to go for the win sometimes.”
As an elite rider, Bardet drew notice at the Tour de l’Avenir where he finished sixth in 2010 and twelfth in 2011 with a stage win at the top of the Mont Salève. “Last year I missed the overall victory by my own fault”, he recalled. “I lost three minutes one day and I finished 2.45 down at the end. I was more focused on the defending champion [Nairo Quintana] than [eventual winner Esteban] Chavez. Quintana is one step above. They don’t play in the same category.”
He claims, however, that “I’m not the best French climber of my generation. It’s Thibaut Pinot.” Pinot, 21, rides for FDJ-BigMat and finished third overall in Turkey lst year, is currently riding the Tour de Romandie.
Bardet is currently combing a full-time career with studies. Coming from the development program of Ag2r-La Mondiale in Chambéry, he’s got a third year university degree in law and is now preparing for a Masters degree in business.
After Turkey, he will ride the Amgen Tour of California, perhaps to be followed by the Dauphine.