Romain Bardet will ride the UEC Road European Championships for France at the weekend, tired after completing the Vuelta a España but happy to have won a stage without the pressures of targeting the overall classification.
Bardet joined Team DSM from AG2R and surprised many by opting to ride the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España but miss the Tour de France, where he finished second in 2016 and built his successful Grand Tour career.
At the Vuelta, Bardet suffered early on and lost time in a crash on stage 5, won stage 14 to Pico Villuercas, and then celebrated as young teammate Michael Storer won two other stages and the blue polka-dot mountains jersey.
"I had a lot of fun. We had to get over a crash at the start of the race and there was a bit of fatigue at the end but overall it was a great race, I had a superb second week," Bardet told L’Equipe, highlighting the success and unity of Team DSM.
"Every day we pulled each other up in the team, there were always two or three guys from the team in front, the polka dot jersey to defend, sprints to go for. The team had a magnificent race. I enjoyed being in the breakaways or riding in front of the peloton. The days flew by.
"I like to put myself at the service of others and you have to know how to disconnect the brain sometimes. I experienced new things by no longer focusing on the general classification. It was good for my head."
Bardet's Grand Tour ambitions have always faded due to his lack of time trialing ability. However, he has worked hard on the discipline since moving to Team DSM and felt the benefits during the Vuelta, where he finished 14th in the opening time trial and 20th in Sunday's final time trial.
"Both of my times were pretty good, I'm very happy," he said.
"I have worked a lot since my arrival at DSM but it took a long time to show. Until June I didn't feel a glaring difference on a physical level. But then the work began to pay off.
"I don't have the stress of getting results in time trials in this team. I'm just asked to focus on the process and give my best. Everything is clear, we all have a protocol and we receive our plans in advance. Now, I feel super calm when I reach the start line of a time trial. That's cool."
In Trento, Bardet will race alongside fellow Vuelta finisher Guillaume Martin, Thibaut Pinot, Warren Barguil and recent Bretagne Classic winner Benoît Cosnefroy as they face Tadej Pogacar, Remco Evenepoel and Italian team leaders Matteo Trentin and Sonny Colbrelli. Current world champion Julian Alaphilippe is riding the Tour of Britain, which also finishes on Sunday, the day of the elite men's road race.
"I'm very motivated by the idea of meeting up with [French national coach] Thomas Voeckler and the rest of the team. I haven't raced a lot this year so I'm happy to be able to keep the momentum going," Bardet said.
"I didn't feel mentally tired since I was allowed to sit up on certain stages of the Vuelta. The last time trial proved that I managed to stay fresh for the end of the season. I really didn't get burnt out at the Vuelta."
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