After a strong start to his his maiden Vuelta a España, any thoughts Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) had of battling for the overall classification evaporated after he lost nearly seven minutes in the sierras of Valencia.
Bardet had raced strongly in Andorra, finishing fourth on the stage, and before the start of the race team manager Vincent Lavenu had told Cyclingnews that a possible GC bid was very much on the table for his star rider.
However, Bardet lost nearly 50 seconds to race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) on the first summit finish in Santa Lucia on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, after Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) blew the peloton to bits with repeated attacks on the Puerto del Garbí, Bardet shipped nearly seven minutes by the finish.
"For some days now I've not felt able to fight for the GC," Bardet said after stage 6, where he slid from 12th to 31st overall. "As I said at the start of the race, I'm taking this Vuelta on the day by day to broaden my experience. From now on, a new race begins for me: a race in which, I hope, I can demonstrate my aggressive racing style."
Bardet's teammate Domenico Pozzovivo continues in the Vuelta, though he is still suffering from his crash on stage 4. After losing nearly seven minutes, like Bardet, the Italian climber is 36th overall. Presumably, he will, like his co-leader in AG2R La Mondiale, be aiming to go for stage wins from here on to Madrid. Either way, two potentially key GC racers are now out of the battle for the overall.