Last year's Tour de France had something of an unsettling effect on Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale). Second place overall was an undoubted breakthrough but, for someone who sets himself very precise parameters for his progression, he admitted it had arrived 'sooner than expected'.
Suddenly, the only way up was the top step of the podium, and no Frenchman has been there since Bernard Hinault in 1985. Bardet didn't necessarily feel ready, and he suffered from that 'what next?' complex, even flirting with the idea skipping this year's Tour.
Now, those nerves seem to have made way for renewed self-confidence as Bardet finds himself in a position, on the second rest day, where winning the 2017 Tour de France is not a faint possibility but a realistic prospect.
'If I see an opening, I'll go for it'
Bardet, as was the case last year, is at pains to point out that the general classification is very tight. Last year there was little between the riders behind Froome before Bardet's coup d'eclat in Saint Gervais two days from Paris, and this year's is one of the tightest Tours in history, with fewer than 30 seconds separating the top four.
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