SAINT-LARY-SOULAN, France (VN) — Dreams of a French Tour de France winner evaporated Wednesday when Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) sunk out of podium range.
The 2016 runner-up struggled to keep pace on the final climb up Col du Portet and crossed the line dejected in 13th, 2:35 behind winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar). [related title=”More Tour de France news” align=”right” tag=”Tour-de-France”]
“I was the victim of terrible legs,” Bardet said after stage 17. “It was a terrible day where my legs just did not respond.”
Bardet dropped from fifth to eighth and now sits 5:13 behind Geraint Thomas (Sky) and more than two minutes outside the podium.
With only one more mountain stage and a challenging time trial to come, Bardet knows his chances of hitting the podium for a third consecutive year are doomed.
“It’s unfortunate, but sometimes that’s how it is,” Bardet said. “This is sport, and you have to accept it. On the last climb, I just could only climb at my pace. And that was really not good. I couldn’t accelerate anymore.”
Since 2015, Bardet has either won a stage or finished on the final podium in Paris. He was second in 2016 and third last year. His success fueled hopes that the lithe climber could be France’s first Tour winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985.
“Romain suffered on the final climb, but he never gave up,” said team boss Vincent Lavenu. “He ceded two minutes, but he did not let go, and he fought to the end. The Tour is not over. Romain has the ability to bounce back quickly, which is something he has already proved it in the past.”
Barring a late-race miracle, it looks like the French will have to wait another year for its next yellow jersey.