Romain Bardet makes his return to racing at next week's Volta a Catalunya following his disqualification from Paris-Nice on stage 1 for holding onto his AG2R-La Mondiale team car. Bardet immediately offered a 'mea culpa' for his actions at the WorldTour race. In a team release, Bardet explained that he has now moved on with his focus on the future.
"My expulsion from Paris-Nice is no more than a bad memory. After a difficult week, especially from a physical point of view since I was still recovering from my crash, I was happy to get on the bike to start training again for the next deadlines," Bardet said.
Having missed the majority of Paris-Nice, Bardet explained his adjusted schedule for the run into July's Tour de France will see him race the Vuelta a Pais Vasco (3-8 April) for the first time following Catalunya.
"I am sorry not to be racing le Tour de Romandie in late April, since that is such a great event, but you have to look at the big picture for a season, and take into account all the vagaries," said Bardet, who will race all three of the Ardennes Classics.
Sixth at the Tour of Oman and 12th at the Abu Dhabi Tour in February, Bardet explained that his focus in Catalunya would be first and foremost on getting the miles in his legs.
"So with only one day of tumultuous racing in the legs since the Tour of Abu Dhabi which ended on February 26th, Volta a Catalunya will be first and foremost a recovery race, facing a high level of competition," he said of the race where he has previously finished fourth and sixth overall.
"It is therefore essential to approach each stage with prudence and intelligence."
While Bardet will be finding his legs in Spain, AG2R-La Mondiale can look to Pierre Latour and Alexandre Geniez for the general classification. Both riders make their first return to Spanish racing after winning stages of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana.
"With 20 days of cycling in a month and a half, it will be a great opportunity to get back to competition," said Vuillermoz.
The team for the Volta a Catalunya also features breakaway hunter Cyril Gautier, Axel Domont, François Bidard, and Ben Gastauer. With a team time trial featuring on stage 2, Gastauer will be decisive in ensuring an AG2R-La Mondiale lose as little time as possible and keeping the team's GC aspirations alive.
AG2R-La Mondiale for the Volta a Catalunya: Pierre Latour, Ben Gastauer, Axel Domont, François Bidard, Cyril Gautier, Alexandre Geniez, Romain Bardet and Alexis Vuillermoz.