A day after his impressive Tour de France stage win at Peyragudes, Romain Bardet is hoping the time given up to the likes of Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa won't come back to haunt him in Paris.
Bardet put 2:15 minutes into Contador, 2:04 minutes into Quintana and five seconds into Landa and took the ten second time bonus on the line after stage 12. On stage 13 into Foix, the triumvirate collaborated and took full advantage to claw back 1:48 minutes. Quintana and Contador also took time bonuses on the line. The short and explosive stage ensures an open battle for the the yellow jersey in the third week of the race.
The 101km stage offered up a day of fireworks and didn't disappoint, but it wasn't a stage that Bardet enjoyed, despite it being Bastille Day and a day of celebration for Bardet and his AG2R-La Mondiale team.
"It was a very tactical stage, more than physically challenging, and there were a lot of guys marking each other, especially the guys high up on the GC. It's a shame that there is so much careful calculating going on in the middle of the second week," said Bardet. "There is still a lot of the race to go, and we opened the door again to riders that we had already managed to distance, so I hope we won't be biting our fingers in Paris."
The 26-year-old remains 25 seconds adrift of Fabio Aru in yellow and 19 seconds behind Chris Froome, needing to take time on the three-time winner before the crucial Marseille time trial if he is to realise his yellow dream in 2017. Bardet's next opportunities to do so will come in the Alps in stages 17 and 18 when he hopes to take on the race, rather than follow as he did so into Foix.
"Personally, I felt very good, but it will be difficult to find any freedom now. And besides that, this final was not conducive to attacks. I just had to follow all day," he said. "It was a great race with real champions like Quintana and Contador, who have had their pride hurt a little these last few days. So they fought to come back into the game, as well as Landa, who is going to be very dangerous now. Behind, there was a lot of marking going on. It is a bit of a shame, but it should make the race even more exciting."
For AG2R-La Mondiale sports director Stéphane Goubert, Team Sky remains the major adversary with Froome third overall and Mikel Landa in fifth. With the British team in a strong position for its fifth overall Tour, Goubert explained a moment of inattention could easily see AG2R-La Mondiale's hard work come undone.
"Though the Sky Team lost the yellow jersey yesterday, they remain a very formidable team, as they proved today. They had two additional cards to play, Nieve or Landa. It was a 100km day, a very unusual stage, and we will now return to more classic profiles," said Goubert. "Now everyone is aware of how Sky will be reacting and so now we will have to adapt. It will be a very nervous race with a lot of bluffing. You really have to stay focused, not panic, and everything will be fine."