“I am very happy to have signed for Team Sunweb," Bardet said. "When considering options outside my current team, it was really important for me to find a team that works progressively, involving the latest technology in equipment and other domains. I also wanted a team with a clear vision on the sport and one that is a member of MPCC."
Bardet turned professional with AG2R La Mondiale in 2012 and he placed on the podium of the Tour de France in both 2016 and 2017, but he had been heavily linked with a move away from the squad in recent months.
AG2R La Mondiale seemed to confirm the new direction on Monday morning when they revealed the signing of Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet from CCC Team and, minutes later, Sunweb formally announced that they had signed Bardet on a two-year contract.
“We are very excited that Romain joins the team,” said Sunweb manager Iwan Spekenbrink in a statement on Monday. “He is a great rider who brings many possibilities, versatile qualities and a very respective palmarès. Our talks together have shown that he is very dedicated to give it his all and get the most out of his potential, and he is eager for our specialists to work with him to focus on improvements so that he can reach that.”
Sunweb lost Tom Dumoulin to Jumbo-Visma ahead of the 2020 season, while it has also been reported that Sam Oomen and Wilco Kelderman could leave the team in 2021. Bardet’s arrival gives Sunweb a rider with a fine pedigree in the Grand Tours, though both the team and the new signing stressed that they had no specific three-week race in mind for 2021 at this juncture.
“It will be hard work, with some classics in the first part of the season and then we’ll assess and plan the next block, including deciding which Grand Tour to tackle, with which goals,” Spekenbrink said.
After struggling at the past two editions of the Tour de France, Bardet was due to skip La Grande Boucle in 2020 in order to ride the Giro d’Italia and the Tokyo Olympics, but the revision of the UCI calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic has seen him alter those plans. Bardet will line out at the rescheduled Tour on August 29, though he has downplayed his GC aspirations.
“At Team Sunweb I have the opportunity to start with no specific expectations or a specific race to target,” Bardet said. “Instead we will focus first on the basics and the fundamentals, working hard and with dedication to improve on all different areas as an athlete – after this we will look to race schedules and goals. This opportunity comes at the right moment in my career and I am very motivated to start working with the team and its group of very promising riders.”
Bardet will link up with former AG2R teammates Nicolas Roche and Nico Denz at Sunweb, where the 2021 roster will also include Michael Matthews, Tiesj Benoot and Chad Haga.
After crashing at the Route d’Occitanie last week, Bardet was forced to miss the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge but he is expected to return to action at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Wednesday as he builds towards his eighth and final Tour de France appearance for AG2R La Mondiale.
Bardet placed 15th on his debut in 2013, before improving to 6th the following year. He won a stage at Pra-Loup in 2015 before finishing second to Chris Froome in 2016, when he also won a stage at Saint Gervais-les-Bains.
Bardet added a third stage win at Peyragudes in 2017, when he pushed Froome in the mountains but slipped to third overall in the final time trial to Marseille. He placed 6th in 2018 and then a distant 15th last year, though he secured the king of the mountains title in Paris. The Brioude native also took silver in the 2018 World Championships and finished on the podium at Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège during his time at AG2R.
“I want to express my thanks to my current team AG2R La Mondiale, who helped me to develop until now,” Bardet said. “My time with them will always have a special place in my memories.”
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