Category: Romain Bardet

France comes oh-so-close at worlds with Bardet


France came as close to the rainbow jersey as it has in two decades with second-place Romain Bardet on Sunday.

Pre-race favorite Julian Alaphilippe faded on the final climb, but Bardet rose to the occasion and was only beaten to the line in a drag race against Spain’s Alejandro Valverde.

The loaded French team leaves Austria with its first worlds medal since 2005.

“We were close to victory but we shouldn’t be too satisfied with second place in a race like the worlds,” Bardet said. “I knew it would be difficult against Valverde in the sprint. Once on the summit, there weren’t a lot of opportunities and I just gave the maximum. Valverde has a palmares as long as your arm, so second place isn’t so bad.”

Bardet, 28, was the last man standing for a strong French unit built around Alaphilippe. The “bleus” took up the chase when Dane Michael Valgren charged clear with less than 20km to go. France looked to have things under control when Alaphilippe unexpectedly struggled on the final and decisive wall.

The heavily hyped Alaphilippe couldn’t follow the pace on the final lap. Bardet, realizing Alaphilippe was struggling, then counter-attacked up the final Höll climb to force the final selection.

“I’m personally disappointed,” said Alaphilippe, who came in eighth just ahead of teammate Thibaut Pinot. “I was lacking strength in the most decisive moment. I got cramps on the ‘wall’ and I got dropped. It was terrible for me and I had to zig-zag up the climb. I couldn’t pedal anymore and it’s been a while since I’ve had those sensations in a race. I knew I wasn’t going to win.”

With Alaphilippe flailing, Bardet quickly improvised and took the race by the scruff of the neck. The two-time Tour de France podium man held up his end of the bargain and helped drive the wedge between the chasing favorites. Canadian Michael Woods, Valverde, and Bardet broke clear heading toward the finish line. A late-race chase saw Tom Dumoulin (Holland) enter into the fray with just over 1km to go.

Valverde opened up his sprint with 300 meters to go and Bardet could not squeeze past the speedy Spaniard.

“We had a well-oiled plan and we put a lot of people in difficulty on the last wall. When Julian was in difficulty, I thought a bit about what would be the best tactic. I had a little bit of gas left and I went all-in,” Bardet said. “The French team was remarkable for its courage and its self-sacrifice. I really enjoy this type of racing.”

It’s been a long time coming for France, and Bardet’s second place marked the country’s first worlds podium since Anthony Geslin was third in 2005 behind Valverde who was second to Tom Boonen.

Bardet, a fan of old-school racing tactics, said he enjoys racing in one-day battles more than the day-in, day-out tension and control of grand tours.

“Racing is far better without the radios, but I was quite lost there for a while as there were no bikes or cars and I only really knew for sure we were the lead group when Tom [Dumoulin] joined us,” Bardet said. “I should have attacked on the hill. It’s easy to say what you should have done afterwards, but what’s done is done. When you are on the flat with a guy like Valverde, you have to expect him to win.”

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Bardet’s podium hopes evaporate in Pyrénées

SAINT-LARY-SOULAN, France (VN) — Dreams of a French Tour de France winner evaporated Wednesday when Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) sunk out of podium range.

The 2016 runner-up struggled to keep pace on the final climb up Col du Portet and crossed the line dejected in 13th, 2:35 behind winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

“I was the victim of terrible legs,” Bardet said after stage 17. “It was a terrible day where my legs just did not respond.”

Bardet dropped from fifth to eighth and now sits 5:13 behind Geraint Thomas (Sky) and more than two minutes outside the podium.

With only one more mountain stage and a challenging time trial to come, Bardet knows his chances of hitting the podium for a third consecutive year are doomed.

“It’s unfortunate, but sometimes that’s how it is,” Bardet said. “This is sport, and you have to accept it. On the last climb, I just could only climb at my pace. And that was really not good. I couldn’t accelerate anymore.”

Since 2015, Bardet has either won a stage or finished on the final podium in Paris. He was second in 2016 and third last year. His success fueled hopes that the lithe climber could be France’s first Tour winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

“Romain suffered on the final climb, but he never gave up,” said team boss Vincent Lavenu. “He ceded two minutes, but he did not let go, and he fought to the end. The Tour is not over. Romain has the ability to bounce back quickly, which is something he has already proved it in the past.”

Barring a late-race miracle, it looks like the French will have to wait another year for its next yellow jersey.

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A third blow to Bardet, Gallopin withdraws from Tour

ALPE d’HUEZ, France (AFP) — The Tour de France hopes of Frenchman Romain Bardet suffered another setback Thursday after his Ag2r La Mondiale teammate Tony Gallopin pulled out during the grueling stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez.

Bardet, who finished runner-up to Chris Froome in 2016 and was third place last year when the Briton took his fourth crown, saw his yellow jersey ambitions dented when teammate Alexis Vuillermoz pulled out due to injury on Sunday and Axel Domont abandoned last week.

A short statement by Tour organizers on Thursday read, “Tony Gallopin is the third Ag2r La Mondiale rider to pull out of the Tour de France after Axel Domont (stage 4) and Alexis Vuillermoz (stage 9).”

With teams restricted to eight riders in this 105th edition of the race, Ag2r are now down to five riders — leaving Bardet with scant support for the remaining mountain stages in the Pyrénées next week.

At the start of Thursday’s 175.5-kilometer stage 12 from Bourg Saint Maurice to Alpe d’Huez, Bardet was eighth overall at 2:58 behind overnight leader Geraint Thomas of Team Sky.

Sky’s Froome, who is aiming for a fourth consecutive grand tour win, is second overall at 1:25.

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Bardet: I made a big mistake in stage 11

The four chasers swept around a right-hand switchback, side by side as the pace ebbed in the final five kilometers of Tour de France stage 11Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) saw the opportunity and pounced.

Romain Bardet, on the other hand, did not. And he is rueing more time lost in the overall.

“I’m disappointed because I made a big mistake in not being more attentive when Martin attacked,” Bardet said.

Ag2r La Mondiale’s French hopeful should have known better too. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Martin were rejoining the group that contained Bardet, Chris Froome (Sky), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Bardet looked behind. He could see Martin coming.

When the Irishman attacked, only Froome followed.

Romain Bardet
Bardet was stuck behind the action with a chase group of four others. Photo: Chris Graythen | Getty Images

It appeared that Bardet could have gone with Froome as well. When Martin streaked past, Bardet was perfectly positioned on Froome’s wheel. The defending Tour champ followed. Bardet did not.

“I was surprised I was the only one who was on his wheel,” Froome said about his move to follow Martin. “But yeah, Dan has ridden really well. I think he’s trying to make the time back from when he crashed.”

Bardet even said after the race that he felt good in Wednesday’s 108.5km day through the Alps.

“I think that I had good legs, but I attacked at the wrong time,” he said. “I did not have a very good strategy. It’s too bad when these opportunities go by.”

Comfortable enough to zip up his jersey right after Martin and Froome went clear, it certainly looked like Bardet would have been able to respond, if he’d taken the initiative.

Instead, the British duo rode up the road. Froome was in the catbird seat because his Sky teammate Geraint Thomas was ahead after an early attack, riding with Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). Thomas would eventually win the day and take yellow.

In the end, Bardet lost 59 seconds to Thomas, 32 seconds to Martin, and 20 seconds to Froome.

“Geraint Thomas was the strongest. They played the team tactics perfectly with Chris Froome,” he added. “I’m disappointed because these are seconds that I am losing, but the sensations are improving.”

On Thursday, Bardet will have one final chance in the Alps to make the right moves and gain back time in the overall. Going into stage 12‘s uphill finish at Alpe d’Huez, which comes at the end of a 175.5km stage, he’s 2:58 behind Martin in eighth. Froome is second, 1:25 behind.

The Frenchman, who was third overall in the last Tour and second overall in 2016, promised to go on the attack.

“Tomorrow we have a big stage,” he added. “I will be battling again.”

Agence France-Presse and VeloNews staff contributed to this report.

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Bardet plays down yellow jersey hopes

ANNECY, France (AFP) — Former runner-up Romain Bardet has played down his Tour de France hopes ahead of a crucial three-day block of climbing in the French Alps which he says could put Team Sky firmly in command.

A runner-up to Team Sky leader Chris Froome in 2016, Bardet underlined his grand tour credentials with a third-place finish behind the Briton in 2017.

But after losing his second teammate within the space of a week, Bardet knows his chances of keeping pace with Froome and his Welsh teammate Geraint Thomas over the coming days will be fully tested.

Thomas is second overall at just 43 seconds behind race leader Greg Van Avermaet, with four-time champion Froome 49 seconds further behind.

Bardet, who sits in 17th place overall at 2:32, lost Ag2r teammate Alexis Vuillermoz to injury on Sunday and Axel Domont abandoned last week.

“We all know how valuable Alexis is and how important he is to the team. He’s taken me a long way through the mountains,” Bardet said during the race’s first rest day Monday.

“It’s bad news for us. We’re down to six riders, so now we can’t afford any more slip-ups.

“I have a big deficit already, and we haven’t been on the first climb yet. It’s simple, I have to take back time.”

The Tour de France peloton tackles three tough days in the Alps, culminating in stage 12, a 175.5km trek from Bourg d’Oisans to the legendary Alpe d’Huez.

But climbing specialist Bardet believes the overall “high level” among the yellow jersey favorites means most will play a waiting game and attack when they “see a weakness in others.”

Ultimately, they “won’t make any big moves until the Pyrenees,” he believes.

“I hope I’m mistaken, but it’s in the third week that we’ll see some big time differences, even though the Alps are harder than the Pyrenees this year,” he said.

With overnight leader Greg Van Avermaet expected to lose the yellow jersey on Tuesday’s stage 10 from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand, the scene is set for Team Sky to take over.

Although Froome is targeting a fifth title, Bardet believes Thomas is worth his tag of co-favorite.

“As far as being possible Tour winners, they’re on the same level for me,” said Bardet. “We saw how well Geraint Thomas raced the [Critérium du] Dauphiné, he’s come through the first week well, he’s the best-placed favorite so things are looking good for him.

“But Froome is a great competitor and if he can win the Tour de France, he will. They have a team capable of controlling the race.”

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Tour de cobblestones: Bardet’s ‘miracle’ ride

The race was on. Attacks were flying. Tour de France stage 9 was nearing its finish in Roubaix. And Romain Bardet, riding alone, looked across to the TV camera and simply shook his head.

After his third flat tire on the cobblestones of Sunday’s stage, Ag2r La Mondiale’s leader looked doomed to lose more time in the overall. But with a huge effort in the final five kilometers and some help from a few rivals who had also been left behind, Bardet rejoined the group of favorites to finish only seven seconds behind Chris Froome (Team Sky) and other top GC riders.

The 27-year-old Frenchman was 36th on the day, well behind winner John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) who had sprinted to an emotional win 34 seconds earlier. For Bardet, his race was downright miraculous.

“It’s a miracle I made it back, it’s a miracle I’m still in the Tour de France,” Bardet said.

After losing 1:15 in stage 3’s team time trial and then dropping another 31 seconds in stage 6’s uphill finish on Mur de Bretagne due to a mechanical, Bardet couldn’t afford to lose more time in the overall. In fact, he’d planned aggressive tactics for stage 9.

“I had been planning to attack, to smash up the peloton,” he added.

His day seemed ill-fated from the outset, though. On the first sector of pavé, 100 kilometers from the finish, Bardet flatted. After two bike changes, he was rolling again.

Then, disaster struck on Auchy à Bersée, the longest sector, 50 kilometers from the end. He flatted again, losing about a minute.

With some help from teammate Silvan Dillier, who was second to Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the velodrome at Paris-Roubaix this spring, Bardet chased to within 30 seconds of the front group. However, Movistar was at the head of affairs, driving the pace for its leaders Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa.

Romain Bardet
Bardet spent much of Sunday’s stage chasing back from mechanical mishaps. Photo: Getty Images

Ironically, Bardet would eventually have Landa to thank for helping him return to the front. After a third flat, perilously close to the finish, Bardet was again chasing alone. As a group swept up from behind, Movistar’s distinctive blue kit was at the fore, helping Landa reel in the gap with less than 10km remaining.

Landa and Bardet would go on to finish together, losing minimal time.

After the stage, Bardet said he was “infinitely grateful to Oliver Naesen, Tony Gallopin, Silvan Dillier, Pierre Latour, Alexis Vuillermoz, and Mathias Frank.”

Unfortunately for Ag2r, one of those teammates is questionable for a start when the Tour heads to the mountains Tuesday following a rest day.

Vuillermoz hit a roadside fan on sector 3 of cobblestones on Sunday and crashed, slightly fracturing his right shoulder blade. He was forced to finish the day riding with one hand on the bars. The team said it will determine Monday if Vuillermoz, one of Bardet’s key climbing lieutenants will abandon the race.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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Bardet leaning on teammates ahead of cobbles

Romain Bardet is putting his Tour de France destiny into the hands of his Ag2r-La Mondiale teammates ahead of Sunday’s clash on the cobbles.

The birdlike climber is the antithesis of a northern classics rider, and Bardet admits he will feel like a fish out of water in the decisive stage 9.

“I’ve never done the cobbled classics,” Bardet said. “I’ve got to put my faith in my teammates who have experience of the pavé, the guys who really relish that kind of battle.”

Bardet can count on some brawn inside the Ag2r bus to help him push across the pavé. It will be interesting to see if Paris-Roubaix runner-up Silvian Dillier and Oliver Naesen give up their chances for the stage victory or be held in check to help Bardet. The French team will certainly want to try to keep their podium contender protected as much as possible, but a run at a stage win might be tempting as well.

Even if Bardet has a top-level escort for the stage, he knows it will be up to him to make it to Roubaix

“That doesn’t provide me with any guarantees,” he said. “You have to fight to be near the front going into each sector. There can be crashes, you can get blocked, it’s very complicated for everybody.”

Bardet raced the Dwars door Vlaanderen this spring to get a reminder of what the cobblestones feel like at race speed. In 2014, when the Tour raced across the pavé in wet conditions, Bardet did OK. He finished in a group that included Tom Dumoulin and Alejandro Valverde at 2:28 back. In 2015, when the cobbles were raced in dry conditions, he survived the day in the main GC group of favorites at just three seconds behind solo winner Tony Martin.

“Sunday is a big day. You can lose the Tour tomorrow,” said Ag2r boss Vincent Lavenu. “Romain is not bad on the pavé, and we will have a strong team around him. We have a sense of uncertainty before the stage, but so does everyone else.”

The French climber, now 22nd at 1:49 back, doesn’t want to see his podium aspirations implode on the pavé. Second overall in 2016 and third last year, Bardet has had a rough first week. But so has nearly every other GC contender, so the big goal Sunday is to survive to Roubaix without losing so much time that the rest of the Tour turns into a stage-hunting exercise.

“You can feel the stress building already,” Bardet said. “I’m not afraid of the stage, but despite being flat it’s a day when there could be significant gaps.”

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Romain Bardet off the back in hectic Tour stage 6

MÛR DE BRETAGNE, France (VN) — Romain Bardet’s yellow jersey ambitions took a hit on Thursday in stage 6 of the Tour de France.

A touch of wheels with Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin left Bardet with a broken rear wheel in the closing kilometers. He changed bikes with teammate Tony Gallopin, but only managed to reach the tail of the pack as it approached the foot of the climb. The work he’d put in chasing left him on the back foot when the attacks started to fly. Bardet rolled across the line in 33rd, 31 seconds down on stage winner Dan Martin of UAE Team Emirates.

“The effort to chase was fatal to me,” Bardet said. “Today, luck was not on our side.”

For French fans, Bardet has been a glimmering hope for the host country to win its first Tour since 1985 when Bernard Hinault claimed yellow. Bardet has won three Tour stages, finished third overall in 2017 and second overall the year prior.

Bardet’s time loss was not what Ag2r had in mind for the stage, considering how well things played out for the team the last time the Tour de France visited Mûr de Bretagne. Back in 2015, Alexis Vuillermoz powered up the finishing climb to claim stage 8 ahead of Martin. This year, Vuillermoz was instead sent back to try to help Bardet regain contact.

Ag2r came close to another stage win anyway. Pierre Latour finished the day runner-up, one second behind Martin. In so doing, the up-and-comer made strides in best young rider classification. He sits third in those standings, currently led by Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb).

Latour said after the stage that the team had been gunning for another Mûr de Bretagne stage victory and that he didn’t know about Bardet’s situation. Sport director Julien Jurdie said that Vuillermoz was the one the team tapped to lend a hand to Bardet in the hectic finale.

With Thursday’s losses factored in, Bardet now finds himself 1:45 down on yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing). That’s a sizable deficit — but Bardet’s GC position after six stages is perhaps not as bad as it seems.

So far this Tour he’s been able to avoid crashes and mishaps. A number of GC hopefuls — including Sky’s Chris Froome, BMC’s Richie Porte, and Movistar’s Nairo Quintana — lost time in a crash-marred stage 1. By avoiding that chaos, Bardet picked up a significant amount of time on three big rivals without even putting in an attack.

Stage 3 was the biggest culprit for his GC losses thus far. The 35.5-kilometer team time trial in and around Cholet saw Ag2r ship 1:15 to stage winner BMC — but considering the length of the stage and the team’s struggles against the clock in the past, it could have been worse.

Still, rider and team will now have to work that much harder when the Tour arrives on more favorable terrain, the Alps, which begin with stage 10 on Tuesday.

Top of mind, for now, will be surviving the cobbled stage 9 to Roubaix. After that, Bardet can go on the offensive. He was confident that he’ll get his opportunities to work his way back up the leaderboard when the road tilts upward.

“We lost time today,” Bardet said, “but there are mountain stages to come where we can get the time back.”

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Ag2r director says Bardet can overcome loss of key teammate

QUIMPER, France (AFP) — Outside the Ag2r La Mondiale team bus at the Tour de France starting line in Lorient on Wednesday there stood just seven warmup bikes, with Axel Domont no longer needing his after a crash at 70 kph on the previous day’s stage.

Domont, who broke his collarbone, was a key member in Romain Bardet’s bid to win his first Tour de France after the climber finished second in 2016 and third in 2017.

The slightly-built Bardet’s Ag2r team is racing the remaining stages of the 2018 Tour down a man after an over-curious roadside fan stepped into the path of the onrushing peloton to take a photo.

As riders swerved slightly, a wave went through the pack that brought down 15 or 20 of them, ending Domont’s Tour with a trip to the local emergency room.

While this was awful news for the rider himself, his team and France’s hopes of a first win since 1985, it was a boon to Bardet’s rivals, as a Tour de France winner generally relies on the support of a full team.

And with teams reduced from nine to eight members for the first time this year, any loss is felt even more keenly than ever.

“It’s a huge loss, he was our warrior and his role is not so easily filled. He looked after Romain in those spaces where he could take on the effort,” Ag2r sport director Julien Jurdie told AFP.

“He was in effect Romain’s bodyguard, the one who would ride beside him and had been due to do so over the first nine stages,” said Jurdie, who has been with the team for 12 years.

“He’s been the one going back and forth to pick up water, making the kind of efforts that Romain, or the rest of the team, did not have to make.”

“It’s not the first time we have lost a rider on the Tour de France and it won’t be the last time either, I guess.”

Six riders had pulled out of the field ahead of Thursday’s sixth stage — a 181km ride from Brest to the punishing Mur-de Bretagne.

“He was also the one who lifted morale and created a good atmosphere on the team bus,” said Jurdie. In the hours following Domont’s crash, there was a palpable sense of sadness around the team.

“We have had a team briefing on the bus on the way here this morning to tell the rest of the team we cannot allow this loss to become a weakness. Instead we have to turn this into a form of strength.”

“There will be no nominative replacement for Axel. Depending on the kind of stage, we’ll be asking different members of the team to fulfill the role he had.

Jurdie then singled out the powerful Swiss rider Silvan Dillier, a strong time trialist who is on the team mainly for the first week of the race.

“We’ll be calling upon Silvan a lot this week, especially when we get to Arras-Roubaix on the cobbles, he’ll be looking after Romain on the cobbles,” Jurdie said.

“It’s very, very important he stays with Romain as long as possible, that he guides him as long as possible on Sunday on this stage that is a kind of ‘Queen stage’ of the Tour.”

Bardet said the cobbles are not his big thing, and he is mainly trying to stay out of trouble until the mountains next week, where he will feel more at home.

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Bardet loses time amid Ag2r injuries

Whatever advantage Romain Bardet carried into Monday’s team time trial evaporated on the hot tarmac surrounding Cholet, France.

Read the full article at Bardet loses time amid Ag2r injuries on VeloNews.com.