Tour de France: Barguil plays down status of France's leading contender

Five days into his debut Tour de France, the pressure is building on Warren Barguil as France’s leading GC contender. Tony Gallopin currently tops the standings for the home nation in fourth overall, but at 11th and 1:19 back Barguil is the best placed of the men expected to be up there when the race goes through the mountains.

After impressing at the Vuelta a España over the past two seasons, a lot is expected of Barguil. The team has already stated that they are not putting pressure on him to perform in the overall classification but on the 30th anniversary of France’s last Tour de France victory, the nation is desperate for some success. Speaking ahead of stage 5 to Amiens, Barguil tried to play his new role down.

“My goal is to finish in Paris and then after that I was to try and win a stage. For the GC we will have to see because it’s still a long way until the first stage in the Pyrenees and I can maybe lose time maybe in the time trial. I am just taking the race day by day,” he told the large number of journalists that had huddled in the rain under the Giant-Alpecin awnings.

“It’s nice to be well positioned in the GC but if I lose ten minutes in a stage then it’ll be over. I’m here without pressure, without stress. If I lose five minutes in a stage then that’s the way it is. These three weeks are never going to be a waste of time. I take it day by day and that’s my strength.”

When asked if he thought he could take home a stage win, he responded pragmatically. “That would be great but it’s the team that matters. If we could win a stage that would be génial.”

Barguil’s surprising performance on the cobbles has done nothing to quell the excitement that surrounds the 23-year-old. Many had expected Barguil to struggle on the pavé but, despite weighing in at just 60kg, he held onto the big Classics riders and finished in the front group with Tour’s main favourites. Barguil paid tribute to his teammate John Degenkolb, the current Paris-Roubaix champion, for guiding him through the chaos.

“When I just follow John then it is easy to be in the front part of the bunch,” said Barguil. “For me too, but I really handled the bike ok on the cobbles. You have to take some risks and I took some risks but I was safe.”

Barguil’s compatriot’s Jean-Christophe Péraud and Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) joined him in that front group but last year’s third-place finisher Thibaut Pinot didn’t fare so well. The FDJ rider suffered a mechanical problem on the cobbles and had to endure a slow bike change with the team car back among the race caravan. Barguil isn’t counting out Pinot just yet.

“I think Thibaut is far down but you never know with him and I think he can try something to win a stage. For me, he is a big talent. Today he might lose time but then in the Pyrenees he could gain some,” he said.

There are still many pitfalls in the coming days for the GC riders but if Barguil can keep avoid losing too much time before the first rest day then he could prove to be France’s best performer this year.

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