The road to the Tour de France is never a straightforward one, but with the early season now in the peloton’s collective rearview mirror, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) remains confident he is on the right track for July.
“It’s been a good block of racing for me here,” Bardet told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 6 of the Volta a Catalunya, “and I like bike racing here. Every day it’s full gas and I really need this big block of training and racing ahead of my main goal in the summer.”
Bardet has not been in the absolute thick of the action in the Volta a Catalunya so far, but the Frenchman has never been far out of it, either.
And that has been the case for the Frenchman throughout pretty much all of the first part of the 2019 season, with a second place in Haut Var, fourth and seventh places in the Ardeche and Drome Classics, respectively, and fifth overall in Paris-Nice.
Consistent placing in the Volta’s two big mountain top finishes, 12th in La Molina, and 12th again in Valter 2000 in the Volta shows that Bardet’s underlying form may not be spectacular, but it is solid.
Nor is Catalunya over, and the 29-year-old has three top-eight places in the Montjuic circuit in his previous participations. Even if that was from the bunch, on a Classics-like stage, then, Bardet may well be a wheel to watch on Sunday’s stage.
For Bardet, cycling has never been purely about July, with the Frenchman willing to test the water in races as diverse as Strade Bianche, placing second last year, the Vuelta a España and the now-defunct Tour of Beijing, and and last year he made it clear, with his podium finish in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, that he wasn’t present in any of these merely to make up the numbers. Moreover, Bardet’s Ardennes bid will receive an extra boost with his first Amstel Gold since 2014.
“I will have a bit of a rest and an easier week and then I’m aiming at the Ardennes Classics again,” he confirms.
“The change of route will change things in Liège. I don’t know what to expect there, so I’m going back to Amstel to build up for it. To tell the truth, I’ve never felt great in Amstel, but it could well be important to have this race in the legs ahead of Flèche and Liège.
“Flèche looks a lot harder this year, and it could be a good opportunity. Then In Liège, with that different finale we might see some movement earlier on in the race. We’ll have to do a recon. to see what it’s like.”
His path into the Tour de France, with the Dauphine as his one main race before the summer will not be any different.
“The idea always was to get a good block of racing up to April, then take it a bit easier in May and then get going in June to be in my best possible shape for July.
“In March, though, there have been a lot of good names in good shape, whilst I’ve been just fine, but not good enough to go for the win. We’ll just have to accept that and move on.”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 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. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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