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Romain Bardet says DSM team ‘spirit’ is still there despite series of rider departures

The Frenchman is planning to ride two grand tours in 2022 but he doesn't know yet which ones he will do.

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Romain Bardet says he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to perform at Team DSM after several of the team’s top riders left at the end of the season.

Last year’s Giro d’Italia runner-up, Jai Hindley has departed for Bora-Hansgrohe, while Michael Storer, who two stages at this season’s Vuelta a España, will go to Groupama-FDJ. Meanwhile, it was announced this week that Tiesj Benoot had ended his contract early with the team and signed for Jumbo-Visma, and rising star Ilan Van Wilder also pulled the plug on his contract early.

The team will have John Degenkolb back in 2022, but Bardet is by far the team’s best-ranked climber and stage racer.

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“Certainly not. It is what it is in cycling. Some guys stay, some guys go and it doesn’t change much. The spirit is still there in the team, and we will continue to do our work to achieve our ambitions. At least I don’t worry about it,” Bardet said in a call with the media after DSM’s team presentation Thursday.

“I can’t make any other comment, except for me it is the right environment to perform at the highest level.”

Bardet joined the team at the start of this year, breaking away from the Ag2r-Citroën set-up after spending his entire career with them up to that point. His decision to leave came as something of a surprise but it gave him an opportunity to take a different approach to his racing.

While rumors swirl about discontent within Team DSM following the swath of departures in recent years, Bardet is having fun in the environment and feels it is pushing him forward as a rider.

“I really feel lucky here and I am at the beginning of the journey here. I really feel like in the last few months I have made some really good improvements with my condition,” he said.

“I learned a lot. It’s super nice to work more closely with the sprinters in the team. I was not used to doing a job in cycling other than working for myself, trying to save myself, and having six or seven guys around me to protect me. I had a lot of fun last year working for the others and trying to prepare a sprint and a proper lead out and trying to get the best out of the team. It was nice to have fun on the bike outside of working as a leader at a stage race.”

While Bardet decided to skip the Tour de France this year for the first time since 2013 to ride the Giro d’Italia, he says he hasn’t fallen out of love with his home race. A change in team was the prime opportunity to do something new this season and he could return to the race in 2022, though nothing is set in stone.

One thing he does know is that he wants to ride two grand tours, but he is still do decide which ones.

“I did the Tour seven or eight times in a row, and I just needed to do something else. I still like the Tour and what comes with the Tour but last year it was a good time to try to do the season a bit differently,” Bardet said.

“I’m going to do at least two [in 2022], but I’ll have to make a choice in consultation with the team. We still have to discuss which Grand Tour suits me best and it is still only December, very early to think about it concretely.”

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