Barguil won the Prix de la Combativite at this year's Tour de France after winning two mountain stages and the polka-dot climber's jersey. He also missed out on victory on the dramatic stage to Chambery, when he lost the sprint to Rigoberto Uran in a photo-finish after initially thinking he had won.
Barguil's success was seen as heroic, particularly in France, because he had to recover from a fractured hip he suffered at the Tour de Romandie to even start the Tour de France. He was unable to target the overall classification as a consequence, but his stage victories and frequent shows of panache sparked 'Wawamania', especially with most of the peloton afraid to attack Chris Froome and Team Sky. The French cycling fans have fallen in love with Barguil's Breton character and the way he not scared to take on the race.
On Wednesday evening Barguil rode a post-tour criterium in Camors, close to is home in Brittany. Despite the pouring rain, the Breton fans came out for a glimpse of their new hero. Barguil attended the same criterium in 2010 when Anthony Charteau won the polka-dot jersey, now he is the now signing the autographs and sparking debate.
"This year I discovered the pleasure of the early years of my career, when you didn't need to know your watts to attack at the Tour de France. The public that loves cycling doesn't enjoy watching races where everything is calculated by power metres. I wish things could change," Barguil told L'Equipe after the Tour de France.
"I realised that I had to change things at last year's Tour de France when I experienced some catastrophic moments, I didn't enjoy it and was ready to quit the Tour. But, in moments like that, you have to question yourself. This year I realised I had more confidence in myself when I attacked rather than when I rode defensively. I doubt my ability when I'm in the peloton and let others control the race. I convince myself that I can't stay with them.
"I calculate things a lot less than in the past. The WorldTour system doesn't not favour me because it is more suited to the rouleurs and riders who can get over the hills. If we don't have those qualities, we miss out. So I decided to race as I like, as I did when I was young, without worrying if I fit in the system."
Barguil beat Alberto Contador in Foix, diving through the final sweeping corner to win on Bastille Day. He showed even more aggression on the mountain finish at the Col d'Izoard, attacking from the Team Sky controlled peloton to catch Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates) and win the most prestigious stage of the Tour alone.
Surprisingly, it was his second place to Uran in Chambery that brought him the most pleasure at the Tour de France.
"Strangely, my stage victories are not my best memories of the Tour, instead it's the stage to Chambery. To open the road and lead the race on the Mont du Chat was magical. I suddenly felt important and a lot of good memories came to mind," he explained.
"I obviously wanted to win ahead of Uran and of course I experienced the emotions of victory without winning. We hit the finish line so quickly, that I thought I'd done it. I'd already beaten him like that at the Vuelta. It was obviously hugely disappointing to see I'd lost in the photo finish, I said to myself: 'I'm still cursed.'"
Mixed messages about his future
Barguil success at the Tour de France has changed his career and could even spark a change of teams despite a contract with Team Sunweb for 2018.
According to reports in both L'Equipe and De Telegraaf, Barguil and his entourage are considering their options. Team Sky and Astana are reported to have shown interest but a return to France seems more logical. The Fortuneo-Oscaro team is Breton, like Barguil, while Jerome Pineau's new team is expected to be backed by Breton-based farm product supplier Vital Concept. However, Barguil also seems happy at Team Sunweb.
"I would now be ready to go back to France, but I'll never forget what I experienced at Sunweb, starting with being the leader in big races. This is also where I learned to race, to handle a sprint or an echelon. This team is the most beautiful cycling school I've ever known. Thanks to them I also learned to speak English."
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