Former Tour de France polka-dot jersey winner Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) made a successful return to competition at the weekend, racing to 13th place at Saturday's Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan and finishing 66th at the Boucles de l'Aulne on Sunday.
The two French UCI 1.1 events were the French climber's first races since breaking his pelvis in a crash on the final stage of the Volta a Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, at the end of March. He hopes that he's now on track for making his team's eight-rider squad for the Tour de France, which starts in Brussels, Belgium, on July 6.
Barguil crashed at over 70kph with a number of other riders, including Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Simon Geschke (CCC Team), on a descent on the famous Montjuic circuit in Barcelona at the Spanish stage race in March.
"I couldn't have done anything – even if I'd had stabilisers [training wheels] on my bike," Barguil said at the time of his crash.
Providing he gains selection for Arkea-Samsic's Tour squad, Barguil will be hoping that he can recreate the form he found on home roads at the 2017 race, when he finished 10th overall in Paris, having won two stages and the polka-dot jersey as 'king of the mountains'.
The now 27-year-old surprised many by promptly signing a contract with French Pro Continental outfit Fortuneo-Samsic for the 2018 season, leaving WorldTour team Sunweb, with whom he'd spent five seasons, winning two stages at the Vuelta a España in 2013 and finishing eighth overall at the Spanish Grand Tour, ahead of his successes in 2017.
He's been unable to rediscover that same level at the team he's now spent a year-and-a-half with – which is now known as Arkea-Samsic – but is still contracted with them for next season, and was at least able to demonstrate that his hunger for his home race was far from lacking by taking second place in the mountains classification at last year's Tour, albeit some way off the points total of winner Julian Alaphilippe.
"I'm very pleased to be racing again after what's been a difficult period," Barguil said on his team's website. "There was a scary moment soon after the start of the GP de Plumelec [on Saturday] when another rider crashed in front of me, and I thought it was happening again, but, after that, things seemed to click.
"I believed in myself on the final circuit, having been excited by the atmosphere, and wanted to prove that the old, offensive Warren was still there. You have to race offensively in cycling, else it's boring."
Talking to L'Equipe, Barguil added of his racing comeback that it felt good for things to have gone as well as they did after such a long lay-off.
"It's great to be able to animate a race, but it's even better if you can win one," he said. "But I'm feeling good, and I enjoyed myself.
"After having had a tough past few months, it's always good to feel as though you've gone well in your comeback races, and I hope to be able to keep heading in the right direction at the Critérium du Dauphiné," he said of the French stage race, which starts on Sunday and serves as one of traditional warm-up races for the Tour de France.
Providing he's selected, Barguil will co-lead Arkea-Samsic at this year's Tour alongside sprinter and 11-time Tour stage winner André Greipel. The team were selected for one of the race's four 'wild card' places, along with Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Cofidis and Total Direct Energie.