Vuelta a Espana: Bardet off the pace on first summit finish
AG2R-La Mondiale rider drops out of top-ten overall
Romain Bardet's first taste of a Vuelta a Espana summit finish proved unsatisfactory although the Frenchman is confident of taking his chances in the remaining 16 days of racing.
Two days after showing off his Tour de France panache into Andorra la Vella, the AG2R-La Mondiale rider finished 5:20 minutes down on stage winner Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and 49 seconds off Chris Froome (Team Sky). The result saw Bardet fall out of the top-ten from ninth to 12th and now sits 1:37 minutes behind Froome in the battle for the red jersey.
The 26-year-old explained post-stage that the day's racing is not one he'll cherish but can take solace in the fact eight summit finishes remain in the race before the September 10 finale in Madrid.
"I am taking this Vuelta from day to day, but this stage won't stay high in the annals of my memory. It was a difficult day, but not dramatically so. The race is still long," said Bardet. "With the experience I have gained, I have learned to manage difficult days during Grand Tours. I am very motivated to continue to fight in the Vuelta.
While the day was one to forget for Bardet, teammate Alexis Gougeard had infiltrated the day's breakaway and was in contention for the stage win alongside Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data) and Lutsenko before the Astana rider made his winning move. The 2015 Vuelta stage winner would eventually cross the line in fifth place but as it wasn't the plan to spend the day ahead of the peloton, the 24-year-old was content with the result.
"It was not part of the plan today to be in the breakaway. But when I saw a large group take off, I thought to myself that we shouldn't let it go without having a member of the team among the escapees. That finish didn't really suit me, but my legs aren't terrible at the moment. A finish with a false flat would have played more to my strengths," Gougeard said.
Having enjoyed good sensations at the Tour de Wallonie, where he won the mountains classification, Gougeard took the win at La Poly Normande before his final pre-Vuelta race at BinckBank Tour. The Frenchman explained stage 5 was further sign of his current form and will keep trying in his bid for a stage win.
"The final climb was not obvious with really steep gradients. I regret a little letting Lutsenko go, but it was a tactical choice, and those don't always play out the way we plan. I have been feeling good the past few weeks, and those good sensations are being confirmed during this Vuelta. I certainly would like to take a stage victory," he said.
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By Josh Croxton