Frenchman aims to give stage 20 time trial "absolutely everything"
Romain Bardet escaped serious injury on stage 19 of the Tour de France on Friday after he was brought down in a crash in the closing kilometres.
Sixty-five million Frenchmen – or thereabouts – would have held their collective breath as they watched the television images of the delicate figure in the brown shorts slip and slide along the rain-soaked tarmac on the outskirts of Bergerac, but would have breathed a sigh of relief as their new hero dusted himself down, remounted his bike, and rode the remaining two-and-a-half kilometres to the finish.
"I didn't see the riders crash in front of me, because it was on a corner, so I couldn't do anything to avoid them," Bardet explained back at his Ag2r-La Mondiale team bus. "But I'm fine. I've got just a few cuts and bruises, which you'd expect after a crash like that.
"It was very nervous in the bunch in the last part of the race," he continued. "It was quite nervous all day today, actually, as there was quite a lot of wind, and a lot of rain."
Around 30 riders were affected by the crash on roads made slippery by heavy rain, but no serious injuries were reported afterwards, and all 164 riders still left in the 2014 Tour are expected to start the individual time trial in Bergerac on Saturday.
Bardet was in no great hurry to get going again; as the crash had happened inside the last three kilometres, the race rules state that any riders involved will be credited with the same time as the group of riders they were with when the incident happened.
The Frenchman therefore finished the stage in the same time as second-placed John Degenkolb, who led the bunch home seven seconds behind the day's winner, Garmin's Ramunas Navardauskas, who soloed to the American team's first stage win at this year's race after attacking on the only categorised climb of the day, 13 kilometres from the finish.
Navardauskas' teammate, Jack Bauer, was also affected by the crash, injuring his hip and arm, although he was able to remount and finish the stage, while the leader of the green jersey competition, Peter Sagan (Cannondale), was another notable victim, although the Slovakian admitted at the finish that he had 'caused' the crash.
"I was the first one to fall, but I don't really know what happened," Sagan told France 2. "It was wet, it was slippery, and, when I crashed, I couldn't stop; I kept sliding on the ground, and couldn't even stand up straight afterwards. It was that slippery."
Bardet's superficial injuries are unlikely to impact the 23-year-old Frenchman's chances in Saturday's 54-kilometre time trial – the only stage ridden against the clock during the whole Tour this year – and he knows that a good performance on the road between Bergerac and Périgueux will secure him a top-five finish overall in his home race.
"I have no particular plan; I'm just going to give it everything," Bardet explained. "I've never done a time trial that long, and we'll be able see how it went tomorrow evening. The most important thing is that I give it absolutely everything."
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