Winner of the Tour de l’Avenir last season, Warren Barguil is the latest talented French espoir to make the step up to the professional ranks, but the Argos-Shimano man was careful to stress that his objective at Paris-Nice this week – his first WorldTour race – is solely to gain experience.
“My aim this week is above all to learn, that’s really what I’ve come here for,” Barguil told Cyclingnews. “It’s my first race at this level so I don’t have big expectations. I just want to learn about it this time and then see what I might be able to do next year and beyond that.
“Paris-Nice a race that I watched on television as a child, I remember rushing home from school to watch it, so it’s an honour to be here now.”
Indeed, the punchy Barguil was coy about setting himself any grand objectives for his debut professional season, acknowledging that his Dutch-based squad has been keen to protect him from any external pressure.
“Everything is managed very well by the team, they’ve been very good so far,” Barguil said. “This whole year is about learning really, there is no pressure. After Paris-Nice, we’ll take a look at how I’m feeling and then decide on the race programme from there. I should be doing Critérium International and the Tour of the Basque Country, but then we’ll see after that.”
The more rugged terrain later in the week ought to be better-suited to Barguil’s talents but the opening days of racing have already provided the 21-year-old with an indication of where he must develop in the coming years.
“In the prologue, I think I gained a bit of time on the corners but it’s my first year as a pro so I didn’t have the power you need on the flat,” Barguil said. “In the future, though, I think that I could do a decent time in a technical prologue like that.”
A native of Hennebont in the cycling heartland of Brittany, Barguil began his career at nearby club AC Lanester, before moving on to the strong CC Etupes squad last year. Recent CC Etupes alumni include FDJ pair Thibaut Pinot and Kenny Elissonde, and Barguil acknowledged that he is part of an exciting generation of French riders who are increasingly successful beyond the confines of l'Hexagone.
“We’ve always been very competitive at espoirs level and maybe it didn’t always materialise afterwards at professional level, but it’s started to happen in recent years and that’s good for French cycling,” Barguil said.