Warren Barguil has remained coy on his chances of making his debut at this year's Tour de France with Giant-Alpecin. Barguil was controversially left off the team's line-up in 2014 but many expect him to be named in the selection this July. However, with the Volta a Catalunya and the Ardennes Classics among his goals, he has other fish to fry before he contemplates the Tour.
"I still have a lot of races to do before and, for me, the Classics are the same as the Tour and they are really important," said Barguil at the start of stage one of the Tour of Oman. "I think that it will be a big year but I need to see. For me it is a big year because you have a lot of results, not because ride the harder races."
The Frenchman has now taken part in two Grand Tours – the 2013 and 2014 Vueltas a España. In his first appearance he went on to take two breakaway victories, beating double Giro d'Italia podium finisher Rigoberto Urán on one occasion. Despite the hugely successful debut, the team opted to keep the 23-year-old away from the goldfish bowl that the pressure of the Tour de France can create and send him back to the Vuelta. The aim was to see how he would fair up in the general classification and he proved himself capable by finishing eighth.
With no French winner of the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault in 1985, the expectations placed upon up-and-coming home talent has always been high. After the success of his countrymen Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet at last year's edition of the Tour and with the 2015 race going through his native Brittany, Barguil knows that the attention will be all the greater.
"For sure at the Tour there is big attention for me. We will pass Brittany and for me it will be a good moment, well I hope that it will be a good moment," he said.
Barguil is beginning his season at the Tour of Oman this week, where he will face the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Barguil has enjoyed a long off-season after finishing his year at the final Tour of Beijing last October. With nearly five months out of racing, Barguil is keeping his targets modest and is just keen to get his 2015 campaign underway.
"I am very happy to start. It's really long to wait until now," Barguil said, standing in the shadow of the Byat Al Naman Castle. "It is good to start here. It's easier and more relaxed. We have a few stages here to see if the legs are good.
"I just want to see my level in the climb for the next races. The goal is just to see if I'm ready or not," he said. "Some people can be really strong during the winter, train well and be really good in the first race but I really need to see. I have no comparison, so I don't know where I am."
Barguil made the most of the time off, upping sticks from Brittany to the warmer climes of Nice. However, it was the climbs that really drew Barguil to the region as he looks to hone his general classification skills. Nice is home to many professional riders, including Barguil's friend Ian Boswell (Team Sky) and the pair have been training together this winter. The move also means less time travelling and staying away from home and his girlfriend.
"It's totally different for me. It was hard to leave Brittany and my family and friends but in Nice I can train more. It's good place and for the training in the mountains it has changed a lot," he explained. "I think it's a really good step because last year I did a lot of training camps alone for climbing. Now I can climb near home and I can spend more time with my girlfriend and recover better. It's totally different."