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Tour de France

Romain Bardet stuck between a stage and a GC-place heading into Tour de France finale

'The race is still very much on,' vows DSM. But is Bardet backed against two conflicting battles ahead of the Tour's final week?

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CARCASSONNE (VN) – Romain Bardet has a conundrum to chew as the Tour de France tears into its final week.

Poised within podium range while looking for a stage win against more explosive rivals, Bardet is butted up against two conflicting objectives.

Bardet’s free-wheeling “day by day” playbook for his ninth Tour de France is still on the agenda ahead of the Tour’s pivotal phase in the Pyrénées.

“We’re in a good place to challenge for GC, that’s something we want to look at but we’re also looking for the upcoming opportunities,” Bardet said Monday.

But is Bardet reversing into a dead-end road?

Fourth overall and three minutes back, the DSM captain is a half-wheel from the podium of the race where he came second in 2016.

Geraint Thomas is just 17 seconds up the road in third, while a tight knot of GC hopefuls lurk around one minute over Bardet’s shoulder.

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Ahead of Thomas, Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard are locked into their own two-rider rivalry for the maillot jaune and on a level above the rest of the race.

Bardet was blunt when asked if he could match the Tour’s two dominators after a rushed recovery from an injury-ended Giro d’Italia.

“No, I don’t think [they can be matched]. So far in the race when they really want to accelerate and make the selection, no one else can compete with them, so it’s pretty hard,” he said.

But DSM doesn’t think the race is done altogether.

Pogačar was out-ganged by Jumbo-Visma on the Galibier last week before Vingegaard’s Dutch crew lost two key riders in one disaster day on Sunday.

“You saw the other day Pogačar can have a bad day and that’s sport – anyone can have a bad day,” team director Matt Winston told VeloNews this weekend.

“I think the race is still very much on. There are still quite a few guys with three-four minutes of yellow and there’s still some hard racing to go.”

Bardet’s biggest roadblock could come from the Ineos Grenadiers team bus. The DSM captain is the jambon in a British baguette of third-place Thomas and fifth-place Adam Yates.

“Ineos has two really strong options,” Bardet rued.

“They’ve won the Tour so many times in the last few years and I think at some point they will risk something with those two. I think they will try to shake things up a bit, I hope to have the legs to follow them to make some moves in the Pyrénées.”

Bardet’s rock and hard place

Romain Bardet is back in the GC frame but somehow so far from it. (Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

So what now for Bardet ahead of three decisive days in the mountains and a leg-sapping 40km TT?

The breakaway is off-limits in a bittersweet consequence of his classification standings.

But victory from a small GC group seems equally unlikely against a fresh and rested Pogačar and Vingegaard when the race heads uphill.

“All doors are open for this Tour de France right now, so right now, I’m obliged to take on the GC, maybe,” Bardet said.

“It’s true that on a day like stage 12 up Alpe d’Huez I could easily have gone in the break if I hadn’t been in the fight for overall. But I also like to race like that, and I would have liked to win it a la pedale [through strength].”

After twice hitting the Tour’s podium in Paris, France’s great GC hope won’t be content with fourth, and three weeks short of a stage victory will taste sour.

“We’re just taking it day by day still,” Winston said. “We’re looking at how we come into each day. We’re in a good position on GC so when we want to win a stage with Romain that will come from GC group, maybe where he can go clear in the final at some point.”

The podium isn’t within easy reach against faster climbers and top-class time trialists, but a fourth stage-victory seems even further.

If Bardet doesn’t decide his Tour de France direction soon, maybe his rivals will do it for him.