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 11. Dan 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.
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 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.