Warren Barguil (Team Giant-Alpecin) is making good on his promise of a top 15 finish in the Tour de France, sitting exactly on the limit of where his pre-race aspirations could leave him – 15th overall and 2’51 down on race leader Chris Froome.
The French climber heads into the second phase of the race content with his form and has pinpointed Thursday’s stage up Mont Ventoux as a key day in the race. Most riders would agree that the stage 14 mountain finish will be crucial but for Barguil that notion holds far more as he’s never actually raced or even ridden the climb.
“This will be the first time for me,” he told Cyclingnews on the first rest day in Andorra.
“It’s a climb that suits me, much better than Andorra, which was not steep enough for me.
“I remember watching when Garate won ahead of Tony Martin and also I’ve looked at Marco Pantani winning there, on video. It was crazy and I also saw Froome win there of course, when he attacked and dropped Contador and Quintana. It’s a special climb for cycling and the Tour.”
The Ventoux is indeed special and many riders feel that there are unique qualities to it, given the landscape the height and the history. For Barguil, that creates a sense of excitement.
“I’m not nervous. That was the second question the French press asked me a few minutes ago but I’m not scared, I’m never scared. I’m happy to ride the Ventoux.”
Ventoux aside, this has been a Tour in which Barguil has not yet hit his best condition. He arrived tired and has had to measure his approach on the climbs so far. It’s meant that his naturally attacking style has had to be curtailed with a more conservative style replacing it.
“At the start of the race I was actually quite tired, so it was pretty hard for me. I discussed it with Michael Matthews a little and he told me the same, and we were both quite tired from the Tour de Suisse. It was the weather and the hard race, with a lot of climbing.
“On stage 9 I started to feel better and when it started to rain I just took my own pace on the last climb to Arcalis. I was feeling pretty good.”
Barguil finished the stage to Arcalis in a small group that contained Fabio Aru and his Astana teammate Vincenzo Nibali. While the Giant rider lost time to many of his GC rivals, he is playing a waiting game with the second and third weeks set to throw the GC wide open.
“We need to see if someone will crack in front of me or not. Or if I will crack, actually, because the most important two weeks are now coming with lots of important stages and riders can lose a lot of time.
“At the race you give 100 per cent every day but then you need to save something for the final week. At the Vuelta two years ago the first two weeks weren’t great but by the third week I was really strong. I saw then what the difference was.”