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Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale)
Tour de France debutant hopes to improve French fortunes
Promising young French rider Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) will make his first ascent of the fearsome Mont Ventoux tomorrow, but despite the stage being one of the most anticipated of the race, in that it falls on Bastille Day and that hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to line the 20.8km climb, the Tour de France debutant showed few signs of intimidation this morning in Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule.
"I haven't ridden the Ventoux before so it will be my first experience," the 22-year-old confirmed as he rolled to the stage start.
"I think it will be a very, very fast start because every French rider will be very motivated for the break because it's [Bastille Day].
"I don't think that Team Sky can control the race all day and if a breakaway can go with five minutes at the start of the last climb it could be OK," he speculated.
Bardet – touted as one of France's most promising stage racers – finished ten minutes down on the winner in yesterday's windswept stage. He conceded third place in the white jersey competition to Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and is now 20 minutes behind the yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky).
He believed the deficit could help his chances should he make a bid to get into a breakaway. He also received some of the loudest cheers at today's stage start which was in the region of his home town of Brioude.
"It's a real pleasure to start a stage close to my home town and I'm still motivated in this Tour. After yesterday stage I lost a lot of time overall so I think it could be better in the next stages for breakaways."