Bardet: One day can change everything at the Tour de France

'The podium is still possible. Romain is back in the game' says team boss Lavenu

Entering the first rest day of the Tour de FranceRomain Bardet had cause for celebration, or at least relief, having been among the GC contenders to avoid time losses on Monday's unexpected 'trap' stage to Albi.

But the AG2R La Mondiale leader cut a philosophical tone at the team's press conference in Castres, evaluating the race and its "ups and downs" as a whole, rather than being drawn on specific flashpoints from the race so far.

"I can't be happy with this start to the race," he said in front of the assembled press in Castres. "But it's the Tour, it has ups and downs. There has been some frustration, that's for sure, but there's still a long way to go.

"The important thing is to remain calm and stay faithful to my guiding principle. At the end we'll draw the real conclusions."

There have been tough times for the 28-year-old already in the first half of the Tour, including AG2R finishing 19th in the stage 2 team time trial. Bardet lost 59 seconds to GC favourite Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) there, and took several days to digest the stage, according to team manager Vincent Lavenu.

But it was Bardet's jour sans on La Planche des Belles Filles that provoked more worry about his GC chances. Losing contact with the lead group in the steep final kilometre, he shed a further 1:09 to Thomas there, leaving him now lying in 15 the overall, 2:08 down on the Welshman.

"We would all like to be at the top, perfect in what we do, but some times are more difficult than others," he said. "You have to accept them, you have to get over it. The Tour is not ten days old, and one day can change everything. Who would have thought there would be such time gaps yesterday between the favourites?

"You can accumulate problems at the beginning of the Tour and then catch up, or on the contrary feel like you're having a perfect race until everything breaks down in a fraction of a second. What matters is to keep the desire and ambition to do well.

"I just hope we ate our black bread (used up our bad luck) and end up smiling."

Among the disappointing days, there have been bright spots for Bardet, including his tester attack on the final climb of stage 9 into his hometown of Brioude. The stage to Albi was another positive, not getting caught out despite not being right at the front of the race when the split happened.

"Yesterday I was relaxed," he said. "I'm not going to stay in the top 30 [of the peloton] all day for nothing. I have strong teammates and we showed that we could make the jump if there was an emergency.

"I knew that the first part of the race didn't suit me, but a three-week race is really something special. You have to keep your mind free, distant from events. I don't let myself be paralysed by this mechanism that brings you up on day and destroys you the next."

Before Bardet's favoured terrain of the Pyrenees and Alps comes the 27-kilometre time trial in Pau, another possible 'slap in the face' to take motivation from, as he referred to earlier setbacks. But there are opportunities to gain time and move back into contention. And according to Bardet, it's in the Alps rather than the Pyrenees where the big moves will happen.

"I want to enjoy the race when it gets to my terrain," he said. "You'll say that I repeat myself, but I think the Alps are more conducive to real developments [in the GC]. This is where the real race can be sparked, with mountains that can make a big selection."

Lavenu was also positive about the remainder of the race, saying that the team are fighting on two fronts, despite appearing to be all working towards one cause – that of Bardet.

"During [stage 8], my directeur sportifs gave a speech that I wanted to hear, that even if we are all-in for Romain, we must also aim for stage victories," he said. "Since then, [Oliver] Naesen and [Tony] Gallopin have been in breakaways.

"We are not going to give up on the general classification," he added. "It's not what I expect from my team leader. The podium is still possible. Romain is back in the game."

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