After starting out with minor placings in a trio of small French races, he only managed 17th at Paris-Nice and 14th at the Volta a Catalunya. A spell of one-day racing followed, but he was unable to make an impact, least of all in the Ardennes Classics.
Such results might have gone relatively unnoticed 12 months ago, but Barguil’s storming success at last year’s Tour de France – where he won two stages, was king of the mountains, and finished 10th overall – and his contract-breaking move from WorldTour-level Team Sunweb to the second-division Fortuneo-Samsic amount to a considerable weight of expectation and scrutiny.
Barguil hasn’t been injured and – barring a bacterial infection in March – has been healthy enough to complete his race programme, but things just haven’t gone right for him at the key moments.
“I’ve found a part of the reason – it’s a personal thing and I’d rather not say. But otherwise I think I’ve been okay. It’s true I didn’t have much luck. I was ill in March. I don’t know. It’s just been tough,” Barguil told Cyclingnews at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“I was 14th in Catalunya, so I was ‘there’ without being there. It’s not terrible – I wasn’t 70th or something like that – but it’s not me. It’s a shame. I’m very disappointed with how it’s gone. But there are still plenty of races for me to bounce back, and that’s what I need to do this summer.”
Barguil is confident the Dauphiné is where he can start to turn things around, but he got off to an inauspicious start in Sunday’s prologue, finishing 139th, 49 seconds down on stage winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky).
He was unconcerned, explaining that – much like at the upcoming Tour de France – he is targeting stage victories over the general classification. There is no shortage of fertile ground starting on Thursday, with four back-to-back mountain stages coming up in the second half of the race.
“There was a death in my family, someone close, so last week I really wasn’t with it. It wasn’t the best way to approach the Dauphiné, so it’s not been easy,” he said. “Last year I came into the Dauphiné fairly light on racing and a kilo overweight, but I came out of it super well, and now I’m going to do the same thing here.
“I’m just looking for stages here – not the GC. To go for GC here I’d need to be at my best, but the Tour is still a month away. I don’t want to be too in-form, with the Tour in mind.”
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A new Warren
The management at Fortuneo-Samsic will certainly hope Barguil can come good as the French Pro Continental team enter the most important period of their season.
They made a significant outlay to prize the 26-year-old away from Team Sunweb, and he immediately became their highest paid rider, their leader, and the barometer for the success of the team as a whole.
And Barguil hasn’t had anywhere to hide; the only time a Fortuneo-Samsic rider has raised his arms in celebration was Laurent Pichon at the Cholet-Pays de la Loire, and that was one lap early. “It’s true that, in terms of results, Warren hasn’t achieved whet we’d hoped,” directeur sportif Sébastien Hinault told Cyclingnews.
“At Paris-Nice and Catalunya, we can’t say he was awful, even if we hoped he’d do a lot better. In the Ardennes it’s true he didn’t have his level. But I think now we’re hitting races that he likes best, with courses that he likes. The second half of this Dauphiné suits him very well, so we expect to see a different Warren.
Hinault explained that no indication of an underlying problem or reason could be read into Barguil’s numbers from training and racing.
“Everything is as it should be. Sometimes results depend on very little. The coin can fall on one side or the other, and unfortunately up until now it’s always been the wrong side. But I’m convinced it will even out in the end. He’s in good shape has a good team around him, so surely it will click into place.
“Of course we hoped for more. In my experience as a rider and a DS, I know that some seasons are more complicated than others, but I also know that fortunes can change very quickly. That’s how it is. We’ve had a complicated start to the season but if we stick at it, if we keep the same philosophy, better times will come.”