Could 2024 be Romain Bardet’s final season in the pro ranks?

Frenchman to decide on his future before the Tour de France, as he reflects on the season and looks ahead to training changes in 2024

ClockUpdated 16:45, Thursday 14th December 2023. Published 16:30, Thursday 14th December 2023
Romain Bardet has ridden for Team dsm-firmenich PostNL since leaving AG2R La Mondiale

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Romain Bardet has ridden for Team dsm-firmenich PostNL since leaving AG2R La Mondiale

Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich) has told GCN that he will decide on his long-term future ahead of 2024 with the prospect of retirement still on the table.

The 33-year-old is out of contract at the end of next season and is relaxed about his future. While he is still motivated and hungry to race, he has not yet signed a new deal at dsm-firmenich - soon to become Team dsm-firmenich PostNL - with patience and consideration leading him to wait until the season develops.

Read more: Team dsm-firmenich announce PostNL as new co-sponsor

“It’s completely open. I’m really still enjoying it but I’m now in the position and at a certain age where I have to evaluate and see where it develops,” Bardet told GCN at his team’s December training camp in Calpe, Spain.

“I don’t want to be that guy who slowly but surely goes down the rankings in the peloton. I need to make sure I still have what it takes to be up there and we’ll see how that develops during the year.”

Bardet has been with the same team since 2021, signing a contract extension at the beginning of last season. He has been instrumental in the team’s development of younger riders, while also being their leader in stage races and Grand Tours. Since joining the squad he has won a Vuelta a España stage and finished inside the top ten at both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia

“I have confidence in the team, so it’s open with what I’ll do. I’ll probably decide on what’s next just before the Tour but for now, I want to focus on the first part of the season and what it takes to be away for such a long period in the year and see what level that I can achieve. At the back of my head, I know it could be my last year but I could also carry on, so it’s pretty open at this point,” he added.

A role as sports director is not in Bardet's future

Bardet isn’t certain about what retirement could bring, although he ruled out the idea of being a sports director. A more senior position within cycling could await but he’s also open to finding a career away from the sport.

“For me, it would be important to fulfil a new role and not just be an ex-pro rider. Inside or outside of cycling, I could study and do something outside of cycling even if it means starting from scratch. I’m keen to develop. When I stop it will be the biggest challenge of my life.”

The 2023 season was a mixed experience for the Frenchman. He racked up several top-ten placings, including fifth overall in the Tour de Suisse. He missed out on an individual victory but was part of the dsm team that took a surprising victory on the opening team time trial at the Vuelta.

“I’ve been consistent even if it’s harder to see because the first four or five spots are taken by the same really strong guys,” he said concerning the firepower that regularly dominates the stage racing arena.

“Otherwise, I was top ten a lot but the Tour didn’t develop as expected. The Vuelta was cool but I didn’t underperform this season. I missed that small ingredient that would have converted results into victories.”

Less consistency but higher peaks could be the key to success in 2024 for the Frenchman

Bardet, who has twice finished on the podium at the Tour de France may not be able to reach those heights in 2024 but the veteran is determined to remain competitive and relevant in the biggest stage races.

“You have to be realistic. It’s really hard for a good rider and a good team to exist if you only have one GC rider. It’s crazy when you think about it but when Adam Yates went to UAE everyone said he would be a domestique but he had his best ever season. You can really feel that the biggest teams have two or three leaders who can really dominate the races. Teams can benefit from having superiority and that’s why the young guys on this team are pushing to have more guys to support each other in key moments. There’s more density around the top ten but with all the names now it’s harder to be in the top-five.”

In 2024 Bardet is willing to sacrifice some of his consistency to challenge at certain points in the year. His training could see him reach higher peaks, while also having periods with shallower form.

“I’m keen to keep targeting GC. I know that when those top guys are really on form then I’m missing some watts around but I’m still thinking that in some circumstances I can end up with good results. There’s no reason I can’t reach a really good level but that extra percent to really match with the top big guys, that’s what I’ve missed. For next year we’re working on trying to be more decisive in races because I can be at 95 per cent from the start of the season to Romandie but not be at 110 per cent.”

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