Back in May, Romain Bardet traveled with his parents to the Pyrenean ski resort of Peyragudes to ride the 13.1 kilometers of climbing featured in the finale of Thursday’s stage 12. That final segment included the 9.7km Col du Peyresourde and the 2.4km climb to Peyragudes.
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The reconnaissance trip proved to be a valuable one. As the race hit the final 300 meters, which kicked up to 20 percent, Bardet followed an attack by Fabio Aru on the steep slope. In the waning meters, he sprung away to take the stage win.
The Ag2r La Mondiale leader said he scouted the steep ramp during his reconnaissance trip.
“When I climbed it here in May, I felt it was very hard and I knew at the Tour we would climb it much faster,” Bardet said. “I was building on my visual knowledge of the finish to do something great today.”
The result brings Bardet closer to the maillot jaune, even though he maintained his third place in the overall. Bardet came into the stage trailing Sky’s Chris Froome by 51 seconds. He now sits just 25 seconds behind the new leader, Fabio Aru (Astana).
Bardet has now won stages in three consecutive Tours de France. Thursday’s victory will undoubtedly reinforce his reputation as an aggressive rider willing to take chances.
In 2016, he escaped on a wet and dangerous descent and then held off the leaders on the climb to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc. The victory vaulted him from fifth to second in the overall standings, where he finished in Paris. It was a renaissance of sorts for French cycling.
Bardet came into the 2017 race under heavy pressure. He appeared motivated to repeat his performance from last year during Sunday’s stage 9 into Chambery. Bardet broke away on the winding, twisting descent off Mont du Chat, only to be brought back by the front group containing Froome, Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac), and Aru just three kilometers from the finish.
Bardet said the disappointment from Sunday’s near-miss fueled him during Thursday’s stage.
“I was very disappointed on Sunday because Sunday’s stage was exactly what I like. To race offensively our race on Sunday was close to perfection and today it was just racing in 500 meters,” Bardet said. “It is a real satisfaction having done that I can now focus on the overall classification.”
Bardet told reporters that he is aiming for the final podium in Paris, if not the top spot. He said that Friday’s short stage from Saint Girons to Foix could decide the final outcome. While the stage is short at just 101km, it includes three Cat. 1 climbs.
Bardet said he expects aggression along the route. And he predicts Froome’s Team Sky to be the chief animators.
“I believe Sky his not happy with the outcome today — they are proud and they will probably want to get the lead back,” Bardet said. “Tomorrow’s stage may be harder than today. The race can be turned upside down.”