Giant-Shimano team manager Iwan Spekenbrink has defended his decision not to take Warren Barguil to the Tour de France this year. The Dutch team named their 13-rider long list for the Grand Boucle, which, surprisingly, excluded the young Frenchman.
Spekenbrink told Cyclingnews that it had nothing to do with Barguil’s talent or current form. It’s all about forward planning. “He can go to the Tour. He is a good rider who can go to the Tour. That is not the question. We want to work on making him as good as he can be in two or three years and we don’t want to make any missteps,” he explains.
“We are not thinking how the team can benefit best from him in the short term. Of course, it is very tempting and it would be very opportunistic to step away from that path and say ‘it’s the Tour lets do that.’ But for him, we should not focus on being opportunistic. We need to stick to that path and make him as good as he can be.”
Instead of the Tour de France, Barguil will return to the scene of his successes, the Vuelta a España. Barguil took two impressive stage victories at the Spanish Grand Tour in 2013. However, the goal is different this season. His target isn’t tangible, like the stage wins that the team are searching for at the Tour de France. For Barguil, it is all about consistency - so don’t expect to see him getting into day-long breaks this year.
Creating a world-beater
Barguil signed for the team last season - after winning the Tour de l’Avenir and riding as a stagiaire in 2012. The 22-year-old came to wider public attention with victories at the Vuelta. Barguil was immediately being touted as the next big thing and a potential Grand Tour winner for France.
France has sorely missed a genuine challenger for the three-week races. Their last grand tour winner was Laurent Jalabert at the 1995 Vuelta a España and they haven’t won their home race since Bernard Hinault’s fifth victory in 1985.
Giant-Shimano has previous in developing world-class talent, most notably Marcel Kittel. The German won four stages of last year’s Tour de France and the team believe they can take a similar tact with Barguil, as they develop him into a general classification rider.
“Warren Barguil is a great sporting project for us. We believe that we can do something similar with him as we did with Marcel Kittel,” Spekenbrink tells Cyclingnews. “We believe that he is a very special talent and we have to give him a lot of attention.”
Considering his progression, Barguil had been keen to make his Tour de France debut and was understandably disappointed to miss out on his chance to ride his home race. “Ambition is one of the most important fuels for an athlete,” Spekenbrink explains.
“He did well in Catalunya and he believed that he could have a good role in the Tour and he can have a good role in the Tour. He is dreaming of going there and that ambition is making a rider progress and it is a fuel for him. But he also understands that we are working with him and in him best interests and consequently in the team’s best interests in making him as good as he can.”
The Tour de France
There is no doubt that the Tour de France is on the agenda for Barguil in the future. When the time finally comes for Barguil to make his debut, Spekenbrink will have another selection conundrum to work out. How will he combine the sprint ambitions of Kittel with the general classification hopes of Barguil? Spekenbrink relishes the thought and doesn’t see it as a problem.
“I think it can work,” he says confidently. “The guys who help the GC guy until the last climb, guys like Tom Dumoulin and, in the future, Lawson Craddock, those kinds of guys also have the physical talent to do a pull in the last kilometre for the sprints. When you have a guy who can fight for a good GC then it gives the team a big boost if you can also get the stage wins. It can take a little pressure off you. There are ways in between.”
Spekenbrink seems determined to follow the path set out for Barguil from the start. If Kittel’s development is anything to go by then we can expect great things from Barguil, but don’t expect the team to bow to external pressures and deviate from their plan.