Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) finished 14th overall when he rode his first Tour de France last season, but he's got his eyes on something a little more tangible this time around. The 24-year-old Frenchman is looking to secure himself a jersey and a trip to the podium when the race rolls into Paris at the end of next month.
"For me, the goal is to try and take the white jersey to Paris," he told Cyclingnews from a team training camp in the Sierra Nevada.
Monday was Barguil’s final day of the training camp, where he has been for the past 20 days. He will make a short trip home to France before the next stage of his Tour de France build-up at the Tour de Suisse, which begins this Sunday. There is a certain amount of pressure involved when you're a French rider preparing for the Tour de France. However, Barguil says that he's in a better place mentally going into this year's Tour de France, and he's learned some valuable lessons following his debut last season.
"Last year, I was very apprehensive. I didn't know how it would be, and everybody was telling me, 'oh it's a really high level with a lot of pressure' and now I know how it is so I'm more relaxed for the Tour," said Barguil. "The last week of the Tour last year I was f*cked totally because of my crash before the first mountains."
Making Paris in white is the overarching goal, but Barguil has some targets along the way. Stage 2 is the first of those, and it may also be an opportunity to take some early time on his rivals. "The second stage can already be really good for me because it is a classics style stage and it finishes with a 3km climb. I hope that I will be in the first positions in the bunch. I think that here you can lose 15 or 30 seconds, like on Mur de Bretagne where some guys were already losing time."
The second weekend will bring the first big mountains as the race heads into Andorra, but it is the trip to the Pyrenees that he anticipates the most, with his first trip to the formidable Mont Ventoux on stage 12. A stage that also happens to be on Bastille Day.
"I've never climbed the Mont Ventoux so we will see. It's a really beautiful climb and in the stage there is only one climb, and I need to see. I hope that I will do ok," said Barguil. "It suits me because it is really steep and it's long. I think that it is a good climb for me."
Enjoying each day as it comes
The first half of the season has been something of a rollercoaster for Barguil. He was one of six Giant-Alpecin riders injured in a training accident when a motorist on the wrong side of the road collided with them head on. Barguil managed to swerve and avoid the worst of the impact but was still left with a broken scaphoid.
While Barguil says that he has not been left with any mental side effects of the crash, he now shows much more respect to race vehicles. Recent events involving crashes between race vehicles and riders, such as the one at the Belgium Tour that left Stig Broeckx in a coma, has also made Barguil appreciate what he does have.
"It's been crazy. With the car, we were really lucky that we didn't die," a philosophical Barguil told Cyclingnews. "I saw the news, and you see how cycling is dangerous, and you have to enjoy your life because it can stop like that. You never know, one day you can be hit by a car or a moto. You need to really enjoy life."
Testing the legs
After starting his season in Catalunya, Barguil quickly showed signs of improvement with a top three finish on a stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Better was to come at the Ardennes when he claimed a career best finish of sixth at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The result was made all the more important as it was Barguil's final chance to show his team that he was cut out for the Ardennes week.
"If I didn't get top 10 then I would stop and only focus on the GC."
Following Liege, Barguil was supposed to ride the Tour de Yorkshire but spend four days off the bike to recover from an illness he had picked up before resuming training. He only spent a short time at home before flying out to Spain for the altitude camp. He says that he's now ready for action, but the proof will be in the racing come this Sunday.
"I'm in top shape now, and I am building towards the Tour. For now, I feel good in training, but only the racing will show if you are ok," Barguil explained. "My goal in the Tour de Suisse is to see how my legs are. If the legs are good, and I don't lose time in the first stages, then I think that I can do top 10. Last year I lost a lot of time on the second day, and then I was not so bad after. I hope this year, I will be ready for the first stage of the mountains."