Following the announcement that the postponed 2020 Tour de France has been rescheduled for August 29-September 20, AG2R La Mondiale moved quickly to confirm that Romain Bardet will participate in La Grande Boucle – if it ultimately goes ahead – rather than the Giro d’Italia as originally planned.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen all bike racing suspended until at least July 1 and, despite the UCI’s attempts to rearrange the calendar, it remains decidedly unclear whether competition will resume at all this season.
Despite that obvious uncertainty, however, Bardet told L’Équipe that the current contingency plan has the merit of giving riders a target on which to focus.
“It was great news to see that people are thinking about what happens after the crisis, but that’s not to assume that there aren’t some more difficulties yet to come,” Bardet said.
“As a high-level sportsperson, you need to have objectives: it wasn’t easy to manage the emotions of training recently, some mornings you didn’t really know why you were getting on the bike… It’s not the biggest problem for society right now, but for us, it’s exciting to have a comeback date and to be able to make some plans.”
After placing 15th overall at last year’s Tour de France, Bardet had opted to reset his career by building his 2020 campaign around his Giro d’Italia debut and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Following the postponement of those events and the provisional redrawing of the UCI calendar, he has opted to return to the Tour de France rather than sit out racing in September and wait for a possible Autumn Giro d'Italia.
“Will it be kept at three weeks? I have big doubts about its format and that of the Vuelta, because there won’t be room for three Grand Tours in three months. Teams are going to have make choices,” Bardet suggested.
“What’s emerged from these negotiations is that the priority has been given to the Tour to save the season, and I don’t see myself spending the month of September waiting at home. I’m keen to race, even if this season is going to be completely singular. In the way I’m going to approach it, this 2020 Tour will be completely different.”
Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Simon Yates (Mitchetlon-Scott) had also been slated to ride the 2020 Giro d'Italia, but Bardet believes that few Grand Tour contenders would opt to miss La Grande Boucle given its position on the rearranged calendar.
“Given the interests at play, all the top leaders of the peloton will undoubtedly be on the Tour, the top 30 or 40 in the world rankings, and that will make for a pulsating race. Will it be more open as a result? I don’t have a crystal ball,” said Bardet, who added that the World Championships road race, still scheduled for September 27, was a further reason for riders to line out at the Tour.
“It will be the best preparation.”