France's best Vuelta a España in years continues apace yesterday as Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano) captured his second stage win in four days - and France's second, after the victory of Alexandre Geniez at Peyragudes, in 24 hours.
The 21-year-old had already seriously impressed race followers with his victory at Castelldefels four days ago, and on Monday after getting in another breakaway (his third in four days) Barguil was once again the winner on stage 16.
It was close, true, just a few millimetres ahead of Rigoberto Uran (Sky). But in making his move ten kilometres from the finish then managing to out-power the vastly more experienced Colombian, Barguil has shown yet again that if Thibaut Pinot (Fdj.fr) and Nacer Bouhanni (Fdj.fr), Arnaud Demare (Fdj.fr) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) are at the forefront of a new generation of French riders, then the 21-year-old, too, forms part of the French breakthrough.
"It's all about working well together from a young age, having the right kind of team and not getting too much pressure put on our shoulders," Barguil said afterwards. "Bernard Bourreau [French national trainer] is very good at that, he's never pushing us to turn pro, for example."
Even so, Barguil has a strong grip on race tactics. Discussing his win, Barguil said "I had felt a bit ill earlier in the day, but I opted to try to stay calm and recover. When Urán came across to me, I knew he would attack immediately and I would have to work hard to go get him and bring him back straightaway. Once I'd done that, I started thinking about the sprint."
"I had one win, but I still wanted another. When I've got the legs, I'm always scared of doing too much. But I try to tell myself it's just a game, something to enjoy."
Resilience, too, is another big ingredient in Barguil's success. He crashed badly on stage 10 to Hazallanas and several journalists commented that when they had seen him at the airport for the transfer that evening, the young Breton was so injured and in such pain he could barely walk. Four days later, he was back on top of his game and winning.
Asked who impresses him as a rider, the former Tour de L'Avenir winner said "Pinot. The way he can stay with all those top guys in races like this and he's only a year older than me."
But if French teams are presumably keen to get Barguil on board, he shows no sign of wanting to leave Argos-Shimano, and after Barguil claimed their eighth Grand Tour stage win of the 2013 season, the team are presumably equally keen to keep him in their books.
"The team is really great here, we've got the perfect structure of team captains and young riders, and everybody's staying calm. I haven't seen anybody get cross and start yelling at anybody else, not once, in the whole Vuelta. It's good to have this sort of team. They trust me a lot, and that's really good for my self-confidence."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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