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After nine years with Ag2r-La Mondiale, Romain Bardet is stepping into the unknown with his move to Team DSM, formerly known as Sunweb.
Having turned pro with his former French squad, the 30-year-old is looking to put a line under two fallow seasons, tear up the script, and start over.
“It is clear that since the end of 2018, I have had difficult years. 2019 and 2020 were not years that I will mark in my annals,” Bardet told Le Dauphiné Libéré. “I needed to move on.”
Having risen to become France’s greatest hope of a Tour de France yellow jersey with two consecutive podium finishes in 2016 and 2017, Bardet’s Tour campaigns have taken a steady nosedive, placing 6th and 15th in the following two years. A strong race this summer was derailed by a concussion, leading to an early abandon.
Having shown flashes of brilliance in one-day races, Team DSM has spoken of giving Bardet more of a focus on the classics. It would make for a radical reinvention for the waifish climber, who has spent his career seeking three-week success.
“The team just wants me to be the best rider I can be,” Bardet said. “I am unable to tell you my racing schedule. We are already focusing on the basics. They’ve analyzed everything I’ve done in the past, and the team thinks they can create a new path for me. We’ll see if it works. I’m super-excited to be starting over from scratch.”
Whatever Bardet’s schedule ends up looking like in 2021, the Frenchman will be a cog in the team’s all-for-one approach to hunting victories – a long step away from his years of playing number one.
“I will not be a unique leader like I have been at Ag2r-La Mondiale for many years. It is always the team that is highlighted at Sunweb,” Bardet said. “It is an unprecedented challenge that I am about to take up.”
Team DSM revealed a whole new identity and brand Friday, moving away from its white jerseys and four-year title sponsor, Sunweb.
2021 will see the team race under the name of tech and nutrition company DSM, and adopt a blue and black livery. The squad’s motif of ‘Keep Challenging” remains however. Just as it’s all-new for the team, Bardet is similarly looking to reinvent himself and reset his own ambitions and perspective.
“It [the move] brings me face to face with my desire to reaffirm myself as an athlete, as a person in an environment that is new,” he said. “It’s a new challenge that will do me a lot of good. It’s the road that will tell if it was the right choice. Life is made of cycles, and sometimes you have to find new energy to keep moving forward.”