Bardet flying steady under radar at Giro d’Italia
Frenchman 'expected more attacks' on Mount Etna
So far, so very good. While other experienced Giro d’Italia contenders like Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) and Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) have already seen their GC aspirations crumble in just four days, France’s Romain Bardet (Team DSM) remains very much on track to do battle in the overall in the Giro’s third week.
Eighth on the summit of the Etna on stage 4 and now 10th at 2:06, the 31-year-old is laying just 22 seconds behind the key point of reference in the GC, Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange-Jayco). Bardet and teammate Thymen Arensmen were both well-placed throughout the Mount Etna ascent, too.
“This was a crucial stage for me,” Bardet, recently the winner of the Tour of the Alps, told L’Equipe on Wednesday at the summit.
”The day after a transfer is always a bit hard to predict, and you don’t know how the legs will be. But it worked out, and we’ve got a good team here too.”
Fast forward to Wednesday and some more time to reflect on how the Giro’s first summit-finish battle unfolded, and Bardet said that he had been expecting more of a dramatic GC battle than the one which evolved almost in slow motion on the interminable ascent of the Etna, concluding with a brief, almost symbolic, acceleration by Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) just a few hundred metres before the finish.
“I was expecting it to be a bit harder with some attacks from the GC guys, but there was a lot of headwind in the end,” Bardet told a small group of reporters at the start of stage 5. "It’s only stage 4 so nobody wants to show their hands too early, I guess.”
Perhaps the one team that did show some sort of intent was Ineos Grenadiers, as they placed Pavel Sivakov, Richie Porte and Jonathan Castroviejo on the front. “They wanted to take a grip on the race,” Bardet recognised, “they’re one of the strongest teams, for sure.”
But in terms of individual performances, Bardet has shown that so far he has been able to take anything that Ineos, or indeed the Giro, could throw at him and Carapaz’s other rivals on the Etna. He is not alone in that of course, but given the alternative, those kinds of results are always encouraging, he said.
“The build up to the Giro was good, so I was expecting that I’d feel good right from the start which seems to be the case,” Bardet, seventh in his Giro debut, said. “So we need to be patient and stay safe and wait for our moment.
“For sure it’s good to start a race like this, but there’s a lot more to come.”
As for when the Frenchman’s moment will actually come, he was already in the action on the intermediate sprint on stage 5, snatching a bonus second behind Ben Swift (Ineos Grenadiers) and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates).
But when it comes to his natural terrain of climbing, stage 7 to Potenza with its massive elevation gain looks like one major opportunity, and then, above all, there’s the Blockhaus on Sunday.
“If there’s a lot of fighting on stage 7 there could be some gaps,” Bardet recognised, “but on stage 9 to the Blockhaus, for sure there will be some real action.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.