The AG2R La Mondiale team is set to go into the 2016 Tour de France with just a single leader in the shape of Romain Bardet, who won a stage and finished ninth in this year’s race. Bardet has shared leadership of the French team at the Tour with Jean-Christophe Péraud in the past two seasons, but 2014 Tour runner-up Péraud is targeting a debut appearance at the Giro d’Italia in what is due to be his final season in the pro peloton.
“This year Romain didn’t want to be the sole leader at the Tour, but events forced him into that situation,” AG2R team boss Vincent Lavenu told L’Equipe, referring to the issues with injury and form that hampered Péraud. “In 2016 he will be the only number one. He is ready to take on this role.”
Lavenu added that next year’s Tour is well suited to the leading French riders and said there’s a good chance of them finishing on the podium. This will be Bardet’s goal, he said.
Speaking during a team-building camp at the Alpine resort of Vaujany, Bardet revealed that he is due to follow much the same programme as this season. “I understand that Paris-Nice is going to be very hard. I wasn’t planning on heading back there, but if it’s going to be hard...” he explained. He will then continue on to Catalonia, Trentino, Liège and Romandie.
Turning to Péraud, Lavenu said he feels the Giro route is well suited to his long-time leader, who will turn 39 during the corsa rosa. “He is going to prepare for it very seriously. If he tackles it at the peak of his forces, he can finish on the podium,” Lavenu said.
If all goes to plan, Italian climber Domenico Pozzovivo will act as the main mountain lieutenant to Bardet at the Tour and Péraud at the Giro. Bardet should also be able to count on the backing of Alexis Vuillermoz, winner of this year’s Tour stage at Mûr de Bretagne.
“My primary role at the Tour will be to be at Romain’s service,” Vuillermoz confirmed. “My secondary objective will be to target the general and/or a stage win.”
Bardet and Vuillermoz will be the French squad’s leaders in the Ardennes Classics. Following his third place in the Tour stage that finished atop the Mur de Huy, former mountain biker Vuillermoz will be their leader at Flèche Wallonne, while Bardet will take that role at Liège, with the podium his objective after he finished sixth this year.