After announcing himself with two stage wins at the 2013 Vuelta a España and confirming his progress with eighth place on GC in that same race this year, Warren Barguil aims to take another step forwards in 2015, when his twin objectives will be the Ardennes Classics and a Tour de France debut.
In order to prepare himself for both, the 23-year-old Giant-Shimano rider has moved from his parents' home near the Breton port of Lorient for the warmer climes and bigger hills in Nice's backcountry. "I've not left Brittany because it's not beautiful, and I don't mind riding in the rain," Barguil told L'Équipe. "But if you want to progress you have to have the means to do so."
Having been encouraged to make the switch at the end of the summer by BMC's Amaël Moinard, who hails from Normandy but is a long-term resident on the Mediterranean, Barguil is already reaping the benefits of regular exposure to the rugged terrain inland from Nice.
"Brittany is a super place for a Classics rider, but I also want to target general classifications. In order to climb passes, I had to spend a lot of time away from home when I was in Brittany. I used to do training camps on my own but I also want to spend time with my girlfriend," Barguil explained. Nice offers the best of both worlds, as girlfriend Gabrielle has moved with the Frenchman.
Barguil admits he's still finding his way around the area with the help of Moinard and occasional training partner Philippe Gilbert. "I've still not been on the Col d'Eze or the Madone," he says. His current four- to five-hour rides take him out to the Col de Vence and feature well over 2,000 metres of climbing.
Due to start his season at the Tour of Oman in mid-February, Barguil aims to have a first peak of form at the Ardennes Classics. "I've found some climbs that are exactly what I need. I've found one that's steep and half in the town, just like Liège's finale, which allows me to simulate race conditions extremely well," he says.
He's also discovered another climb at Cagnes-sur-Mer that reminds him a lot of Flèche Wallonne's steeply ramped finale. "I've even been wondering whether it is steeper than the Mur de Huy, and as you always need to push yourself harder in training than in racing…"
Barguil describes the Ardennes Classics as his most achievable objective in the short term, confessing he needs more maturity to become a serious candidate for Grand Tour success. But he insists he won't be going to the Tour just to sit in the wheels. He is set to prepare for that with a three-week break after the Classics, with a return to racing at the Tour of California followed by either the Dauphiné or the Tour of Switzerland.
In between these race commitments, he will expand his knowledge of the mountains north of Nice, with the 2,800-metre Col de la Bonette-Restefond likely to feature on his training schedule as he builds towards July.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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