Romain Bardet has revealed he will not target the overall classification at the Tour de France in September and admitted he is "reflecting" on his future at AG2R La Mondiale as he ponders the next step of his career and considers offers from other teams.
The 29-year-old Frenchman has been linked to Team Sunweb - who need a Grand Tour contender after losing Tom Dumoulin to Jumbo-Visma - with his agent Joona Laukka telling Cyclingnews that they want to understand AG2R La Mondiale's projects for the future before making a decision.
AG2R have announced contract extensions with Benoît Cosnefroy, Oliver Naesen, Alexis Vuillermoz and others recently but Bardet, after a difficult 2019 season and disappointing Tour de France, is considering a change. He has always raced in AG2R's brown and blue colours but there appears to be a real chance he could race in Team Sunweb's red and black colours in 2021.
Bardet came through the AG2R development programme in Chambéry and has only ridden for AG2R during his nine-year professional career.
"I'm reflecting on things," his local La Montagne newspaper quoted him as saying. "I'm still thinking about if I stay or if I leave. We're looking at the details, nothing has been decided.
"I'm at the key point in my career where I've acquired quite a bit of experience but I've also got some good years ahead of me to do as well as I can. We're carefully thinking about what is best for me, with AG2R or with another team. I'm at a point in my career where I think it's only right to have these thoughts."
Laukka confirmed to Cyclingnews that Team Sunweb have shown interest in signing Bardet, and former teammate Nicolas Roche has suggested he would fit in well with the philosophy, ethics and methods of working of team manager Iwan Spekenbrink.
"Sunweb know that Romain is on the market – that’s basically the situation," Laukka admitted.
"He’s looking for other options but one option is also to stay, so we’re not in the situation that he’s saying that we will definitely change teams. We will start with AG2R, let’s say, the final negotiations soon, because we are waiting to hear their sporting project for the coming years.
"We know they will offer a contract, but we wait to start real negotiations. They have also some things going on, they are working on what they want to offer to Romain - not only financially but the whole project. They haven’t presented the whole proposal yet. They have the will to continue with Romain - that’s been clear for some time, and has never been in doubt. It’s really about the project in the coming years in the team."
Tour de France
Laukka hopes Bardet's future will be decided in the next seven weeks, before the Tour de France starts in Nice on August 29.
Bardet was due to target the Giro d'Italia and miss the Tour de France in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the race calendar. He has agreed to ride the Grande Boucle but has made it clear he wants a freer, more aggressive role, without focusing on the overall classification.
"I don't want to take on the Tour as I have done for seven or eight years. I'll prepare for it well but I don’t want to make any plan or set any goals," he said.
"Last year, I had a lot of expectations and I was left disappointed. Even if winning the polka dot jersey was satisfying, I didn't enjoy it all very much. I really want to be in the action at the Tour, to raise my arms in victory. The plans of the past allowed me to twice finish on the podium but that didn't work out in 2019.
"I'll be more aggressive, I won't focus on the general classification, I'll turn-up without pressure on my shoulders. I have a special history with the Tour and now I want take this as an opportunity to mix things up. My mind was not set on the Tour de France this season."
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