Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) finally turned his fortunes around at the Tour de France with a strong ride to third place on the Plateau de Beille on stage 12. Bardet was one of 22 riders to make it into the day’s break, which included his teammate Mickaël Chérel, but was one of the few who was still there when the race hit the final climb. He put in a few digs on the final ascent but was no match when Joaquim Rodríguez made his bid for glory.
Bardet may have missed out on the stage victory but the performance is a sign that things are finally moving in the right direction. “It was not enough today but I'm back from very far (down). I was in the doldrums, I had my worst day in the Tour de France, a catastrophe,” Bardet said referring to his previous day’s ride, which saw him throw up on the Tourmalet and lose nearly 14 minutes and put an end to his overall ambitions.
“The hardest is not to reach that level but to reproduce it every day. I'm going to continue to work hard to fight with the best. Hats off to Mickaël, who is my best friend, he did a fantastic job. But Rodriguez was the strongest. I can't have any regrets.”
The expectations were high for Bardet following his sixth place at last year’s Tour de France, not least from the home nation its self. Bardet has been in good company though, as his fellow Frenchmen Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot have looked like shadows of their 2014 selves.
After a tough first week that saw him lose almost five minutes, the Pyrenees were supposed to be salvation for Bardet, however, the young Frenchman withered in the heat. He shed a whopping 8:50 on the opening day in the mountains. Things would get worse on stage 11 when he seemed to be suffering from heat exhaustion and was forced to make a trip to the medical car after throwing up on the Tourmalet.
"I was in hell during the last ten days, I could not follow the rhythm of the peloton. Today I found some new energy such as the AG2R-La Mondiale team. However, this Tour still represents the biggest failure of my career because my main goal was to reach the top 5. At least, I gained in confidence today, which is quite good for the Alps. I am more than pleased of my Plateau de Beille climb."
The result has moved him back inside the top 20 in the overall classification but the team has admitted that, at over 17 minutes back, a high overall postion is no longer in their considerations.