As the Tour de France peloton hits the mountains on Friday, there will surely be one rider in high spirits, namely Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin). The 24-year-old won the team’s internal Euro 2016 football sweepstake, successfully predicting France’s 2-0 victory over Germany in Thursday night’s semi-final. With a nice bonus in the bag, he kicks off his Pyrenees campaign. As it turns out Barguil, who hails from Brittany, loves to ride his bike in the area.
“I really like the Pyrenees. To me, it’s the best place in France to train in the mountains. There’s not going to be a major selection on the Aspin – it’s not a very hard climb – but the following descent can shake things around. We saw how [Alberto] Contador struggled yesterday. I can descend well. It doesn’t bother me. Then again, the stage with the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon after the Peyresourde will be more decisive than the one with the Col d’Aspin,” Barguil said on Thursday.
On Wednesday’s stage in the Massif Central, it was clear that the Movistar and Sky teams are more than ready to control the race. Movistar set a blistering pace on the climbs, taking away all aspirations of an attack from the other teams. More of the same is expected in the Pyrenees but Barguil didn’t seem to mind, accepting that it was all about being patient and trying to follow for now.
“It’s going to be harder to attack but knowing what awaits us in the third week it’s probably better to save energy. Sure, these teams can control the race for two weeks but will they have energy left in the final week?” Barguil wondered. “That’s why one has to stay calm and wait until the last moment.”
For the past two days, the temperatures at the Tour have risen quite sharply. Less than a month ago, Barguil was still riding in the Tour de Suisse, a race hit by cold and wet weather. He finished third overall in the 9-days long stage race. “In Switzerland it was freezing and here it’s 30 degrees. It’s not easy. The heat doesn’t bother me too much. I’m wearing a mostly white jersey so it’s ok. It’s better when it’s warm.”
The stage race in Switzerland boosted his confidence after a disrupted build-up to his season, caused by the horrible crash he and his teammates suffered during a training camp in Calpe back in January.
Barguil escaped with no more than a fractured scaphoid and quickly picked up training again. He finished third in a stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, before pulling out. He was consistent at the Ardennes Classics, finishing 15th at Amstel Gold Race, then following it up with a 9th at Flèche Wallonne and 6th place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Then he took a break from racing, before returning to action in Switzerland in June.
“I had a good start to the season. It was good to gain additional confidence. I felt good in the Tour de Suisse,” Barguil said. “I was a bit worried afterwards because I didn’t feel great at the French national championships but it’s turning out well.”