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Romain Bardet, the Frenchman once hailed as a possible Tour de France winner, will skip the “grande boucle” in 2020.
After two sub-par Tour performances, the Ag2r-La Mondiale star will instead race the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España in a calendar that he hopes will help revive a career that he admits has plateaued.
“It’s not a decision that is taken lightly,” Bardet said Wednesday at a team camp. “I don’t regret having fully focused on the Tour in recent years, but I felt that I was not progressing. That idea is to return [to the Tour], but even better.”
Next season will be one of novelty and new challenges for the 29-year-old Bardet. He’ll not only race the Giro for the first time of his career, but also open his season at the Tour Down Under in January, another race he’s never started. He’ll also put special emphasis on the Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the world championships, both set on challenging courses that favor Bardet’s style.
“The worlds course is without a doubt the hardest route since Sallanches,” said Bardet, referring to the legendary race in the French Alps when Bernard Hinault won in 1980.
Bardet has started every Tour since 2013, winning three stages as well as hitting the podium twice, with second in 2016 and third in 2017. Since then, his Tour trajectory has stalled, at least by his standards. In the past two editions, he’s not won a stage and he’s missed the GC podium, though he did win the best climber’s jersey in 2019.
Despite a 2020 Giro route that includes three time trials, hardly Bardet’s specialty, he likes the look of what many are calling an old-school course, with plenty of hard climbs and long stages packed into the final week.
“There are a lot of time trials, so I will start with caution,” Bardet said. “But the course is very difficult, above all the third week with stages that I like, very long, and with climbing of more than 5,000m.”
Earning leadership duties for the Tour for the French outfit will be Pierre Latour, who was 13th and the best young rider in 2018. He missed this year’s Tour after his season was handicapped with illness, but the 26-year-old Latour will get his chance to lead in Le Tour.