In his final season at AG2R La Mondiale in 2020, Bardet was initially due to make his Giro debut, but he ultimately opted for the Tour when the coronavirus pandemic forced a redrawing of the schedule last Autumn.
Bardet has targeted the general classification at the Tour every year since 2013. He finished on the podium in 2016 and 2017, and he never placed lower than 15th before a crash forced him to abandon last year’s race. He has yet to confirm his participation in the 2021 Tour, however, and he has said that he is glad no longer to be his team’s main focal point.
“At AG2R, I was pushed as a leader from my second year as a pro and I could never develop in the shadows. I was systematically put forward, I had a project to justify and ambitions to fulfil,” Bardet told L’Équipe. “At DSM, I’m not only going to be able to work more calmly and in a more precise way, but I’m also going to be able to do races just to help the team, without the slightest personal ambition.
“That will lift a form of pressure. They’re counting on me and on my experience, that’s certain, but I won’t be the only leader anymore. It’s up to me to reaffirm myself, to prove that I deserve the status I had at AG2R.”
Although Bardet's schedule for 2021 has yet to be finalised, L’Équipe indicated that it will include fewer race days than in the past and could include some cobbled Classics in a supporting role. He placed 25th in his Tour of Flanders debut in October.
Bardet had spent his entire professional career with Vincent Lavenu’s AG2R squad, but despite the imminent arrival of a prestigious new co-sponsor in Citroën, he opted for a fresh start with DSM.
“Between 2013 and 2018, I had six years of an almost uninterrupted upwards trajectory. That’s rare,” Bardet said. “But I’d fallen into a routine that didn’t suit me anymore. I needed to take a risk, get a fresh start and get a big boost.”
Bardet joins a DSM team – formerly Sunweb – that includes Jai Hindley, Tiesj Benoot and Søren Kragh Andersen, though the squad will be without one of the break-out stars of 2020 following Marc Hirschi’s unexpected transfer to UAE Team Emirates in early January.
“I head the news like you did, I wasn’t aware of it,” Bardet said of Hirschi. “For me, it doesn’t change much. I’ve never raced with him and, in any case, we weren’t going to be riding the same races.”
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