Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) will ride Strade Bianche next season as part of his preparations for the cobbled stage 9 of the 2018 Tour de France. The Frenchman, who has finished second and third overall in the past two Tours, has ruled out the prospect of riding Paris-Roubaix to gain experience on the pavé ahead of July.
“It’s a race that makes me dream,” Bardet told Le Monde of his plan to ride Strade Bianche. “The team knows that I’m keen to do my Classics, and they’ve left me to follow my instincts, which is to rub shoulders with Classics riders, all while minimising risks. It’s a good compromise.”
Bardet’s decision to make his Strade Bianche debut means that he is almost certain to miss Paris-Nice for the first time since his maiden professional season in 2012. Strade Bianche takes place on March 3, with Paris-Nice getting underway a day later.
Although Bardet suggested that he will not decide between Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico until the routes are announced, the likely inclusion of a team time trial in the Italian stage race would make it an attractive proposition given that the Tour de France will feature a team time trial on stage 3.
In recent seasons, Movistar have sent Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana to sample the Flemish Classics in order to prepare for cobbled stages at the Tour, but general classification contenders have tended not to tackle Paris-Roubaix. Bardet will not buck that trend, and has confirmed that the Hell of the North will not feature on his schedule in 2018.
“I’d love to do it but, honestly, it seems very complicated because of the risk of compromising the rest of my season,” Bardet said. “I’d love to ride it one day, but I’m conscious of my qualities on the bike, and they lie in stage races, and I don’t want to put the team’s plans in danger.”
Bardet’s 2018 season will get underway in February at either the Vuelta a Andalucía or the Tour of Oman, before he lines out at Strade Bianche. He will ride the Tour of the Basque Country and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April, and is likely to build towards the Tour at the Critérium du Dauphiné, which this year finishes four weeks before the Grand Départ in the Vendée.
The World Championships in Innsbruck will be a late-season goal, with Bardet intimating to Le Monde that he is unlikely to ride the Vuelta a España.