Bardet: Olympic postponement ‘a lesson about being human’

Bardet focuses on concerns over humanity and health rather than sports as coronavirus crisis deepens.

Like everyone, French cyclist Romain Bardet learned of the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Tuesday. But unlike most, Bardet was actually planning to race the Olympic road race and carry the hopes of his country into the Games. But the AG2R-La Mondiale rider understood that, considering the current global health crisis, it simply was no longer possible.

“It’s a decision that we were expecting more and more in the last couple of days, and considering the sanitary conditions around the world today it seems totally reasonable and logical. It was hard to imagine how, given the current global situation, we could really have the Olympics in a couple of months.”

Bardet admits that, since finishing Paris-Nice barely a week ago, the world of sports has virtually been erased by coronavirus crisis.

“It’s really hard to think like an athlete in these times – it would simply be too egotistical,” he told VeloNews, Tuesday. “Since the end of Paris-Nice, I have been looking at the reality more as a human being than an athlete. It’s really hard to think about the rest of the cycling season at this point. We have no idea when it might resume. Already Paris-Nice finished earlier than expected, and then the news that Giro d’Italia would not take place as scheduled. Everything has happened so fast. Even the experts, virology specialists, have a hard time understanding what is happening and the scope that it is taking.

“It just became evident that it was not going to be possible to organize the Olympics, to reunite athletes from all over the world in good conditions,” he continued. “I think the news is comforting for everyone really, because we just knew that it would be impossible to organize the Olympic Games under such conditions.”

But Bardet also understands that, with the Olympics out, the Tour de France is also being called into question. “It is obvious that we have to ask questions about the Tour de France, and now that the Olympics are canceled the attention will turn to the Tour.”

The two-time Tour podium finisher, however, is still holding out a little hope, although he admits it is strictly on a personal level.

“The Tour is not the Olympics,” he said. “It is only my own opinion, but it seems as though the Tour is more containable. I really don’t know but it seems more possible, if France is not too heavily impacted, that perhaps the Tour could still happen. Perhaps employing some of the measures that we put in place at Paris-Nice is possible. From a sporting level, the Tour now is the only thing we could possibly construct a season around. It would be great if it could happen. But it is still way too early to project on that, and I am not really in a position to say.”

Bardet said that for the moment he is not really thinking or living like a professional athlete, because, well, for him it is impossible to train for a race like the Tour de France if you can not even go outside. “Right now our battle is turned to the sanitary situation.”

But while he is frustrated not to be racing, he is happy about one thing — the fact that he has time at home to enjoy life with his first child, Angus, who born barely a month ago.

“I’ve become a father for only a month so I am really taking the time to focus on my family. What we are living now is more a lesson about living as a human being than it is as a sportif,” he says. “The situation is really extraordinary and it is hard for me to really have the perspective to understand everything.”

Meanwhile, he admitted that he loved the idea put forth by Italian cyclist Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) Tuesday, to organize one grand tour this year that started in Italy, went to Spain and finished in Paris. “I love the idea, especially as a strong supporter of Europe,” he said. “It’s a wonderful idea, but I think it is really utopic.”