Bardet was due to take part in the Giro in 2020 when still racing for his only previous team, French squad AG2R. But his plan fell foul of the pandemic and he raced the Tour, where he crashed out with a concussion, instead.
In 2021, both cycling’s usual schedule and Bardet’s 2020 plan are back in operation. There's one key difference, though, as Bardet, for the first time in his career, will share GC Grand Tour leadership responsibilities with another rider, in this case 2020 Giro runner-up Jai Hindley.
On Thursday in Turin, Bardet was effusive about both that prospect and the opportunities finally racing in the Giro will give him, describing it as a “new beginning,” after so many years focussing on the Tour de France.
“For every French team the highlight of the year is the Tour and in every race you’re thinking about that. I knew, on the other hand, that this Giro would be a big target for DSM, we have GC ambitions with two riders, and I like that,” Bardet told reporters.
Quite how the relationship between the Australian and the Frenchman will play out on the roads of Italy remains to be seen, but with less than two days to go before the race started, Bardet was keen to highlight various positive advantages.
“We will share responsibilities and help each other to achieve the best result,” he said brightly, “and we will do our very best to get the pink jersey.
“It’s true it’s new for me not to be a sole leader, but it shows our strength in depth when it comes to fighting for the best possible spot in GC. In a race like the Giro, it’s very useful to have two cards to play. Last year, Jai was very strong in the Giro and I’m sure he will be again this year, too.”
Having come through his last race, the Tour of the Alps, in good shape, Bardet was equally upbeat about what riding the Giro meant for him. “It feels like an adventure, something unusual for me,” he enthused. “I’ve really wanted to do this race one day and it’s great to be able to do it with a new team and on a really challenging course.
“It’s hard to say what the differences will be between this and the Tour for me, because Giro has not started yet. But I’m looking forward to riding on those mythical roads, like the ascent to the Zoncolan or the stage to Cortina d’Ampezzo. And the Strade Bianche stage will be very exciting, for sure there’ll be some big differences between the main contenders.
“I think it’ll be much more open racing than the Tour and that should suit me better. That third week will be the crucial one, particularly with all the big climbs and the long last TT on the final day. Physically, I think this is going to be much more demanding.
“Of my 16 days racing so far this year, 15 have been in Italy,” Bardet concluded, “I think that tells you how much I like racing here.”
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