There were mixed emotions for Romain Bardet as he crossed the Il Lombardia finish line in Bergamo; the Frenchman had to come to terms with the small regrets at just missing out on the podium, while also reflecting on what has been his finest season to date.
“I’m frustrated because I lacked that explosiveness in the final – I was cramping up,” said Bardet, who was dropped by Esteban Chaves, Rigoberto Uran, and Diego Rosa on the sharp Bergamo Alta climb in the final 5km of the final Monument of the season.
“A small regret is not having collaborated 100 per cent on the Selvino,” he said of the moments after he, Chaves, and Uran had gone clear on the penultimate climb of the day some 35km from the finish.
“[If we had have done] I don’t think Rosa would have come back. From the moment we became four, there was one too many for us all to get onto the podium, and I knew the last climb suited me much less.
"I don’t have any regrets – I gave it everything I had. We were up there – we were in the fight for victory. It was really a great race so I’m happy to have been up there.”
The ‘race of the falling leaves’ signaled the end of the 2016 WorldTour, and Bardet ends the campaign eighth in the rankings. It has been a season in which the 25-year-old has grown in maturity and consistency, and he made a real breakthrough at the Tour de France with a sensational stage win and second place overall.
“That’s the end of the season. I was second in Oman in February and fourth at Lombardia in October, and in the middle I had a great Tour de France, so it has been a super season," said Bardet.
"I’d have liked to have finished it on the podium. There’s always something to work on over the winter to arrive at the start of next season even stronger."
Latour impresses again
Bardet nearly delivered at the end of a day where the AG2R-La Mondiale team was a prominent and active presence throughout. They had Mickael Cherel in the break, Jan Bakelants in a brief chase move, and then two riders in the race-deciding selection on the Sant-Antonio Abbandonato climb.
Joining Bardet up there was Pierre Latour, the second year professional who “keeps surprising us from race to race,” according to directeur sportif Julien Jurdie.
The 22-year-old has had a fantastic 2016 campaign, the highlight being a stage win at the Vuelta a Espana – his first Grand Tour – and he was able to add a top 10 in a Monument to his achievements.
After making the selection, he went on the attack to soften up the lead group before Bardet went away with the Colombians, and then secured 10th place from the second group on the road.
“I found myself up there with Romain and he told me to attack. When it exploded, Romain was up at the front - it was impeccable," said Latour.
"It’s the second time I’ve raced Lombardy and this year it was really hard, a true race of attrition. I’m happy with my result.
"The assessment of the season is a good one, especially after my win at the Vuelta because a victory was what was lacking."