Romain Bardet is hoping one step backward will mean two steps forward in 2020.
The French hope pulled the plug on his 2019 racing season, citing the desire to reboot both mentally and physically going into next season. Though he won the best climber’s jersey in the Tour de France, the Ag2r La Mondiale captain struggled in the GC for the second year in a row.
“The 2019 season did not reach the goals I set for myself,” Bardet said Friday. “It became clear to me that I needed to recharge myself physically and mentally to come back stronger next season. The level of competitiveness that I want to reach requires freshness in all areas.”
Reading between the lines, Bardet seemed to be saying he was feeling the pressure of falling short of his ambitions for the second year running. After hitting the podium in 2016 and 2017, Bardet has struggled to match the favorites each summer at the Tour de France.
In a Tour that saw a revival of French hopes in the GC, with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) riding deep into the third week with yellow jersey hopes, Bardet faded out of the GC frame. He rebounded with a brave surge to win the King of the Mountains jersey and earn another spot on the final podium in Paris, but 15th overall at 30:23 back fell well short of expectations. Bardet’s last victory came in February 2018 in the one-day Classic de l’Ardèche in France.
“I will take advantage of the next few weeks to rest, while continuing to remain physically active, and define the contours of a 2020 season that looks already very exciting,” Bardet said. “I thank the team, staff, team partners, and the fans for their trust in me and support throughout the season.”
Team boss Vincent Lavenu supported Bardet’s decision to step back and confirmed that the 28-year-old remains at the center of the team’s ambitions.
“After conscientiously analyzing his season with the sports and medical staff, it appeared that it was necessary for Romain to put an end to his racing in 2019,” Lavenu said. “It is a thoughtful and well-considered decision that will allow us to define with him the profile of the 2020 season and its goals, which will be high as always.”
Bardet remains under contract through 2020, and will remain the team’s major GC captain. Going into 2020, the French outfit has not signed another major grand tour contender to its roster. Its only major signings so far include promising Italian all-rounder Andrea Vendrame (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Lawrence Naesen (Lotto-Soudal), younger brother of Ag2r classics star Oliver Naesen.