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After surviving the first cull on Mount Etna on Tuesday, the French star at Team DSM is expecting the next major selection to go on the steep ramps up Blockhaus on Sunday.
“I think there will be a big victory there,” Bardet said of the iconic summit finale in the Apennine this weekend. “The last three stages of the first week are really hard. Blockhaus, there could be some big gaps there.”
- Is Bardet the ultimate Giro outsider?
- Porte: ‘Bardet is a darkhorse’
- Which GC contenders lost time on Etna
Bardet, 31, is flying under the radar so far in the Giro, and that’s just fine with him. When VeloNews caught up with him at the start of Wednesday’s stage, Bardet was playing it cool.
“It’s going OK. We haven’t seen much of the Giro so far,” Bardet said. “It’s a long race. For sure it’s good to enter the race in a good way but there’s a lot more to come.”
Ineos Grenadiers signals Bardet as a top rival
Bardet is coming into his second corsa rosa as a dark horse for overall victory. Last year, he rode to seventh in his Giro debut, and returns more motivated than ever for the Italian grand tour.
The secret might be out on Bardet’s steady presence in the bunch so far in this Giro.
As the Frenchman said, it’s only been five days into the 2022 Giro, but the collective radar is up inside the bunch.
No less than Richie Porte signaled Bardet as a danger-man.
“Romain Bardet, I think he’s the dark horse here,” Porte said at the line Tuesday on the Etna summit. “He’s looking great.”
Bardet knows he has a target on his back.
“They were strong for sure,” he said of Ineos Grenadiers. “They have a really strong team and for sure they want to take control of the race.
“I was expecting it to be a bit harder, and some attacks from the GC guys but there was a lot of headwind in the end,” Bardet said of Etna. “It’s hard to know what to expect. It’s only stage 4, so nobody wants to show too much too early.
With a few big names already flaming out, including Tom Dumoulin and Miguel Ángel López, his stock will only rise the deeper he pedals into the Giro.
Bardet finished safely in the bunch Wednesday and sits poised in 10th overall, at 2:06 back.
“The build-up has been good to the Giro. I was expecting that I’d feel good right from the start which seems to be the case,” he said. “So we need to be patient and stay safe and wait for our moment.”
The “X” is already marked in the road book: Stage 9 ending on Blockhaus could go a long way toward defining Bardet’s GC options, along with everyone else’s.