Romain Bardet will lead the charge for AG2R-La Mondiale at the Criterium du Dauphine this weekend. It will be Bardet’s third consecutive appearance at the race and he will be looking to improve on his career-best finish of fifth in 2014.
Supporting Bardet will be Alexis Vuillermoz, Mikael Cherel and Cyril Gautier, while Samuel Dumoulin will be the team’s main hope for the sprints. Jan Bakelants could also be a stage contender for the French outfit. Ben Gastauer and Alexis Gougeard complete the line-up.
“As always, it is a beautiful but merciless race with a lot of well-known climbs in the Alps. In this context, this race will not only be a question of quantifiable target but also a matter of taking control in the decisive moments,” Bardet said. “I have not ridden since April, therefore I will need to get my competition rhythm back. The three first stages seem to be ideal to do so.
“Then, I hope I will be able to compete with the GC contenders because I have been feeling in great shape over the last few weeks. We have an impressive team line-up, with riders who showed strong skills during last weekend in Bretagne.”
The Dauphine will be Bardet’s first race since the Tour de Romandie at the end of April, which drew to a close the first part of his season. He has taken the time to preview a number of the Tour de France stages in the Cantal region in the south-west of France ahead of the race next month. Bardet has also been to the Sierra Nevada for altitude training, but he has had to work his cycling training around the work he has also been doing for his master’s degree.
“I am studying management at the Grenoble Business School and, as part of my master degree, I did a work placement in public relations for the AS Montferrand rugby club. It was an interesting experience because I discovered new professional responsibilities,” he explained.
Bardet made his Dauphine debut back in 2014, where he finished a career-high of fifth overall. Last year, his appearance was something of a rollercoaster. He was seemingly dropping out of contention when he broke clear on the Col d’Allos on stage on stage 5 and won on the ascent of Pra Loup, 34 seconds ahead of Tejay van Garderen. His victory moved him into a podium spot, but he then crashed the following day dropping him back down to ninth. He would eventually finish sixth overall.
“It was a sensational moment which was almost as intense as my victory at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne on the Tour de France few weeks later,” he said of his win at Pra Loup. “I appreciated the way I rode this precise day. I won because I was not afraid to dare. The Dauphiné route is a realistic preview of the Tour de France, therefore, a stage victory is always an amazing result. Finally, there is a strong emotional link between this race and the AG2R-La Mondiale pro cycling team which has its headquarters in Savoie for 25 years."
AG2R La Mondiale team for the Criterium du Dauphine: Romain Bardet, Alexis Vuillermoz, Mikael Cherel, Cyril Gautier, Samuel Dumoulin, Jan Bakelants, Ben Gastauer and Alexis Gougeard.