Warren Barguil was the centre of attention at the presentation of the 2018 Fortuneo-Samsic roster in Bruz, near Rennes on Tuesday, but the Frenchman insists that he feels no additional pressure at being the outright leader of the Professional Continental outfit.
Barguil left Team Sunweb a year before the expiry of his contract to sign for Fortuneo after claiming two stage wins and the king of the mountains title at the 2017 Tour de France, as well as 10th place overall in Paris. That performance saw Barguil’s profile in France rise considerably, but the 26-year-old is confident that he will not be distracted by the increased attention in his home country.
“I don’t see why I would put pressure on myself,” Barguil said, according to AFP. “I was already drawing attention after the Vuelta [in 2013, when he won two stages as a neo-professional – ed.] The French media wasn’t behind me but a lot of other press abroad were following me. When you win two stages as a neo-pro, you get a bit more attention the following year.
“This time, I’m going to have closer attention from the French media, but that’s not something that bothers me, quite the contrary. In any case, at the start of the season, I’m not at 100 per cent, so I’ll put myself at the service of the team. An outright leader is someone who must get results all year round and I’m not that. I prefer to pick my objectives.”
Ardennes Classics and Tour de France goals
Fortuneo-Samsic have already received a wild card invitation to this year’s Tour de France, although L’Équipe reported on Wednesday that they are likely to miss out on a Vuelta a España wild card, with Cofidis and the Spanish trio of Euskadi-Murias, Burgos-BH and Caja Rural-Seguros RGA seemingly in pole position.
The Barguil factor has helped Fortuneo-Samsic secure wild card invitations elsewhere, however, and the Breton has identified the Ardennes Classics as the major target of his spring campaign. He will ride Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya in March in preparation for Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. As in 2017, Barguil will take a break from racing in May ahead of the Tour. In the latter part of the campaign, the tough World Championships in Innsbruck will be an objective.
“I’m hoping to get a top 10 in both Flèche and Liège, or else a good top 5 in one,” he said. “Afterwards, I want to concentrate more on the GC in Grand Tours. I know that it’s more feasible to aim for the top places at the Vuelta than the Tour.”
Last season, Barguil rode the Tour with the simple of aim of chasing stage victories but nonetheless secured the highest overall finish of his career. He suggested that he will employ a similarly aggressive strategy in 2018.
“Of course, I’d love to repeat the same exploit. I’m going to go to the Tour and go on the offensive,” he said.
He took a more diplomatic line when asked if he felt Chris Froome (Team Sky) should serve a suspension for his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta.
“It’s not up to me take the decision. It’s the UCI who have the last word, it’s up to them to take the decision,” Barguil said.
“There’s a limit and the limit was passed. Now it’s up to them to find out if there was a problem or not with the test. Whether I say he should be banned or shouldn’t be banned won’t change anything.”
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