Thibaut Pinot has already stated he'd like to skip the 2017 Tour de France and have a crack at the Giro d'Italia, and it turns out fellow French star Romain Bardet is going through a similar thought process.
While Pinot's thinking is based on a rough couple of years at the Tour – where he has fallen way short of repeating his 2014 podium – Bardet enjoyed the performance of his career at this year's Tour, finishing second behind Chris Froome and quickly becoming the star of the race in France, with his face on numerous L'Equipe front pages.
As such, French expectations for a first home winner of the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault in 1985 have been significantly heightened, but Bardet says he may need to go away and have a crack at a different Grand Tour before he's in a position to win the big one.
"I'm not ready to win the Tour for the moment," said the 25-year-old in a long interview with L'Equipe on Friday, describing the gulf between himself and Froome as 'enormous'.
"The idea is to talk to my coach and the team management. We'll put each of the three routes in front of us and say, 'what shall we do this year'. Anything is possible."
Asked whether he's considering missing the Tour, he responded: "That's not what I'm saying but it might be that it's not the number one priority.
"Like Thibaut has said, you have to consider it. I'm at a stage of my career where I hope to be capable of winning a Grand Tour. That experience – I have to take it as soon as possible, and it won't necessarily be at the Tour de France. If I dig my heels in, saying ‘I'm only doing the Tour', until I'm 28, 30, there's a chance I'll never win a Grand Tour."
The Ag2r-La Mondiale rider, who has ridden the past four Tours but hasn't yet tried to Giro or Vuelta, referred to the possibility of trying to win the Giro before having a free role at the Tour as a 'dream'. "There are so many things to achieve at the Tour. You can go for the polka-dot jersey, get in the breaks, but everyone [at the team] would have to be on board with it."
Bardet says he is not yet mature enough to win the Tour, and believes he needs to grow in stature as a stage racer - starting not with the Grand Tours but with the week-long races.
He has an enviable string of results to his name in those races this season - finishing in the top 10 of five of the six he has entered and placing second at the Critérium du Dauphiné - but the next phase in the process, as he sees it, is leading from the front and riding for overall victory.
"It's a process, a learning curve, because my teammates don't have the experience of defending a leader's jersey, and me, I don't have the experience of wearing it.
"At the moment we're not going to week-long races with the objective of winning them; we go to achieve the best result possible. Now, I must try to win them, and risk losing them. That's the next step."
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