Romain Bardet: The Tour de France is just another race for me

Relaxed French rider reflects on improvements since joining dsm-firmenich and looks ahead to the coming battles with Pogačar and Vingegaard

Clock15:43, Thursday 29th June 2023
Romain Bardet competes at the 2022 Tour de France

Velo Collection/Getty Images

Romain Bardet competes at the 2022 Tour de France

Targeting the Tour de France as the main goal of his season for the first time since 2020, Romain Bardet admits he feels like a “more complete rider” since his move to dsm-firmenich and has confidence of challenging for the podium over the coming weeks.

Prior to joining the Dutch outfit in 2021, Bardet had never ridden the Giro d’Italia and feels his participation in the Italian race over the past two seasons has helped rejuvenate his spirits ahead of this year. Turning pro with French team AG2R La Mondiale in 2012, the home hero was never given the opportunity to ride the Giro given the team’s emphasis on the Tour de France.

“It is good to change a bit, as you know I had been sticking to the Tour for most of my first ten years in professional cycling,” Bardet said. “It was not the case that because I rode the Giro for two years, I wanted to skip the Tour for the rest of my career.

“I think everything fell nicely this year with the parcours to give it another good go at the Tour. So I am really happy to participate this year.”

Riding the Tour de France every year for AG2R La Mondiale between 2013 and 2020, Bardet’s only other Grand Tour participation came at La Vuelta a España in 2017. He spoke of needing to reset when he left the team in 2021.

“I would say in terms of [team] environment, I really like to be part of dsm-firmenich because I now don’t see any major difference between riding the Tour and any other race - there is no extra pressure,” concluded Bardet.

His race programme reflected this shift in mentality, with the two-time Tour de France podium finisher skipping the race entirely in 2021 and only returning last year following his departure from the Giro d’Italia with a crash.

The 2022 Tour de France was the first that Bardet had ridden for dsm-firmenich and brought his highest finish at the race since 2018, with the Frenchman finishing in 6th in Paris. Earlier in his career, Bardet was tipped to become the first Frenchman since Bernard Hinault in 1985 to win the Tour de France, following second and third-place finishes in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

However, the prodigious talent’s downfall was often found in the time trials, with Bardet’s progress seeming to falter during his final few years with the French AG2R La Mondiale squad. Bardet believes the improvements he has made at dsm-firmenich over the past two seasons have made him a ‘more complete rider’ as he bids to return to the Tour de France podium.

“To be competitive these days in cycling, you can’t afford to have the same level that you had before 2019. I have improved a lot in time trials and in my consistency in the long efforts over the climbs.”

For many, the battle for the yellow jersey at this year’s race is a two-horse race between reigning champion Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and two-time winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). But, refusing to be drawn into naming his rivals for the podium, Bardet was adamant that the two favourites should not be treated with extra deference as opposed to the other GC hopefuls.

“The biggest mistake we can make would be just to focus on other guys. For me there won’t be two races in one, we will just have to be consistent over the three weeks and take opportunities to jump and gain time on everyone.”

Such strong words will have French fans excited to follow the fortunes of the 32-year-old over the coming weeks, with Bardet among a number of contenders who should rightfully dream of finishing on the podium in Paris. But for the dsm-firmenich leader, added experience and a move away from a French team have offered him the maturity to head into this Tour de France with a sense of calm.

“At the end of the day, it is just another bike race for me and we [also] have big ambitions in the sprint stages [with Sam Welsford]. I feel I can fit much better into my role as a GC leader now being in this environment.”

The Tour de France begins in the Basque Country on Saturday 1 July, with each stage live and ad-free on GCN+ (territory restrictions apply). With a first stage showdown on the cards between the likes of Romain Bardet, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), it promises one of the most exciting Grand Départs in years to kick off the 110th Tour de France. Make sure not to miss it.

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