Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) is currently easing back after a long season that only concluded last month at the Tour of Beijing, where he finished sixth, and the ASO-organised Criterium in Saitama, Japan. However, his thoughts are already veering towards 2015, when one of his goals will be to make his debut in the Tour de France.
The second-year French professional had some hopes of taking part in cycling's top race last July but instead he was held back for a repeat ride in the Vuelta a España. His 2014 Vuelta objectives, however, had a very different slant to his previous participation in 2013, where as a neo-pro riding in his first Grand Tour he took two spectacular stage wins, one in the Pyrenees at Formigal where he neatly outduelled Rigoberto Urán.
This time round in the Vuelta, Barguil focussed on the overall classification, with some success. Despite a painful knee injury after a mid-race collision with a team car that almost caused him to abandon on the Ancares stage, just 24 hours before the Vuelta ended at Santiago de Compostela, Barguil took a very respectable eighth overall.
Curiously enough, eighth overall was just one place off what another promising young French rider, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) had managed in 2013 in the same race. And just as Pinot, after his strong Vuelta ride, then headed to the Tour and took a podium finish this summer, Barguil hopes that the Tour will be on his schedule next July.
"First, I will focus on doing well on the Ardennes Classics, then start my build-up for the Tour de France and finally I will try to go to the World Championships, where the course could be good for me," Barguil told Cyclingnews earlier this week, shortly after he had completed an informal tennis match against BMC pro Amael Moinard, and two days before racing in a cyclo-cross event.
"The Tour route, with so many mountain stages, is good for me, and there's not too much time trialling, either. Plus, it has a stage in Britanny, where I come from. I've ridden up that climb myself, of course, and I can vividly remember watching that Tour stage up the Mur-de-Bretagne in 2011 on TV [narrowly claimed by that year's overall Tour winner, Cadel Evans, ahead of Alberto Contador – ed.]"
When it came to watching the Tour on television this year, Barguil said it was his compatriots' performances that attracted most of his attention. "I saw they did a lot of great racing, which has made me even keener to take part and I'm very pleased with their results, and I hope to go to the Tour next year and do the best I can, too."
Barguil does not anticipate any clash of interests between Giant-Shimano's understandable interest in claiming as many stages as possible with German leader and sprinter Marcel Kittel, and his own ambitions.
"It worked out fine in the Vuelta, with John Degenkolb going for the sprints while I focussed on my GC bid. So it should be ok in the Tour too," Barguil said.
In the Vuelta, he had one rider to protect him, Germany's Johnnes Frohlinger, who he says "is really helpful at giving me tips on climbing, although a lot of the time I'm learning for myself, particularly as the team is more focussed on their sprinters."
Barguil cited his sixth place on the Ancares stage as being particularly important "because I had a lot of knee pain at first but it slowly got better and I could race well on the climb. I was actually going so well I wouldn't have minded if the race had had a fourth week" Riding so strongly in the third week of a Grand Tour was, he agreed, very encouraging for the 2015 season and what he hopes will be his Tour de France debut.
Ancares, however, was not where he felt the strongest: "The day that [Dani] Navarro (Cofidis) won [at Obregon, in a Safari Park, on stage 13], I was definitely at my best and I was disappointed that things didn't work out that day. I think I could have done something."
For 2014, Barguil acknowledges that his time trialling has plenty of scope for improvement. "My position in the chronos wasn't great, and I adopted a different position on the bike in the final time trial of the Vuelta and it felt fine. That's one of my big goals in 2015, to try and improve my time trialling position as much as possible, as well as getting a little bit better in the mountains, too."
While his first race is the Tour of Oman, Barguil is currently kicking back a little. Apart from his tennis, he is also taking part in "activities that I like, like mountain biking and cyclo-cross, but that don't have to do with road racing. It's fun to be able to do, and this is the only point of the year where I really get that opportunity to do other sports."
Giant-Shimano's first training camp of 2015 will take place in December in Cambrils, in north-eastern Spain, "where we will pin down the specific details of the race program specifically." Although, there seems to be little doubt which races Barguil is keenest to target next season.