Bardet to begin season at Tour du Haut Var

French stage-racing star 'happy to get back to racing'

AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet will set his season in motion at the three-day Tour du Haut Var, which begins in Vence, near Nice, in southern France, on Friday.

Bardet brought the curtain down on his 2018 season when he was a non-finisher at Il Lombardia in mid-October, and so is now champing at the bit to get racing again after four months away from competition.

"I'm happy to get back to racing. Since turning professional in 2012, I've never started a season so late," Bardet said on his team's website.

"It gave me the opportunity to indulge in some other sports and lay a solid foundation of preparation," he said, "and I'll be using these races in February as a way to prepare for my first UCI WorldTour goals that come in March. But it's a real pleasure to start racing in France, especially when it's a race like the Tour du Haut Var, which promises to be very difficult."

Bardet considered riding – but ultimately decided not to take part in – his first Giro d'Italia this season, but will instead put all of his eggs into the one Tour de France basket in July, with a build-up to July that is set to include Paris-Nice and the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya in March, Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April and June's Critérium du Dauphiné.

The Tour du Haut Var's opening stage includes two ascents of the category 2 Col du Vence, while there is a tough uphill finish to stage 2 in Mons.

The race finishes on Sunday with the famous climb of Mont Faron, which many fans – and riders – will remember as the traditional finish of the now defunct Tour Méditerranéen, and which could suit the climbing skills of Bardet, despite him likely to still be finding his racing legs.

"I'll be up against opponents who already have several races in their legs, so my goal will be mainly to find my rhythm, and get into the groove with the team so that we're working seamlessly together," said the 28-year-old, who hasn't ridden the Tour du Haut Var since 2013.

"Really, it's all about making the kinds of efforts that can only be generated in a proper race."

AG2r La Mondiale for the 2019 Tour du Haut Var: Romain Bardet, Mikael Cherel, Hubert Dupont, Alexandre Geniez, Alexis Gougeard, Nans Peters, Alexis Vuillermoz

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