Bardet training at altitude in Sierra Nevada ahead of Dauphine

AG2R team leader, third at last year's Tour de France, ready to step up

Romain Bardet, who finished third behind Chris Froome (Team Sky) and second-placed Rigoberto Uran (Education First-Drapac) at last year's Tour de France, is ramping up his training ahead of June's Critérium du Dauphiné, ready for an attack on the top step of the podium in France in July.

According to French sports newspaper L'Equipe, Bardet is currently training in the Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spain, basing himself at altitude at the High Performance Centre in Monachil, near Granada.

With him are AG2R La Mondiale teammates Axel Domont and Pierre Latour. They did also have Alexis Vuillermoz with them, too, but he had to return home early due to stomach problems.

Bardet has been training in the Sierra Nevada every year since 2014, when he first went there accompanied by his father.

"I like coming here each year," Bardet told L'Equipe. "I don't see it as a chore; I'm genuinely happy to be here."

Hill sprints

Ask Bardet's teammates if they're as happy to be there, however. The tough climbing sessions have included the trio performing hill sprints at an altitude of between 2,000 and 2,400 metres. The 'oxygen-deficiency sprint reps' aim to get the riders ready for the kind of accelerations they're going to have to react to, or indeed make, this summer.

"lt doesn't only improve their sprint," AG2R's performance director Jean-Baptiste Quiclet explained. "It improves their physical condition generally."

Sessions during the two-week-long training camp have often been performed on the climb of the Col de Monachil.

"We're getting their bodies ready for the even harder challenges to come in June," said Quiclet, referring to the Critérium du Dauphiné, which Bardet has used as his last stage race before the Tour since 2014.

Bardet is apparently already head and shoulders above the others in the sessions.

"Romain's base endurance is much better than the others'," Quiclet explained. "They don't even try to follow him. In fact, we ask them not to try."

Altitude gain

"There's not a metre of flat around here," Bardet told L'Equipe. "You climb, you descend, you climb again. You can get 3,200 metres of altitude gain in fewer than four hours on the bike. It's difficult, and I like the fact that it's difficult, with long, steep climbs, which I can string together each day."

Bardet, who finishes the camp on May 27, then heads to the Dauphiné from June 3 to 10 ahead of his assault on the Tour de France, which starts on July 7.

The 27-year-old Frenchman will be looking to topple defending champion Froome from the top step of the podium at the Tour, although his job may yet become that much easier should a verdict into Froome's salbutamol case be reached before the race, and the Briton is prevented from starting.

Either way – and providing the Dauphiné goes well for him – Bardet, it would appear, will be on the start line for the Tour in Noirmoutier-en-l'Île in top condition, ready to make the step up.

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