Lincolnshire’s finest reports on riding the trans alps and life in the AG2R feeder team here.
There are two other contracts that have been signed which influences the important of where Romain Bardet ends up in 2021 and beyond.
Firstly there is the commitment of Flemish classics start Oliver Naesen to stay with the Alpine based Ag2r team. It shows their faith in him to deliver a monument (despite a number of near misses including one with a spectators coat) and with some of the other names on that teams retained list there seems to be a bit more emphasis on the all round aspects of cycling than just whether Bardet can even win the Tour de France.
On the other side of the French team divide is Groupama/FDJ and their extension of Thibaut Pinot’s contract.
There is an argument to say that he is even more of a flaky GC contender than Bardet having succumbed to injury more times than Bardet has suffered stage fright. But his team see enough in him to make sure he is tied to a deal.
So with his main French rival under contract and settled in his environment and the main classics star on his own team already signed up (along with a number of other young French talents) does this leave Romain in the wilderness?
Well, he is 29 so if its going to happen in Le Tour he doesn’t have long left. However he doesn’t seem able to address that weakness in time trials and seemed happier to go to the Giro (as Pinot had done in previous years) to get away from the pressure of being one of the home country’s hopes to end their yellow jersey drought.
He clearly feels like a change may benefit him and Sunweb who were caught short (hahah) by Tom Dumoulin’s departure could see him as a good bet for a stage win and mountains jersey at least. After their rudderless performance in the Tour last year it would give them someone to get behind easing the pressure on Michael Matthews on the earlier flatter stages.
I do hope that wherever he ends up we see that sense of freedom back in his riding because when he attacks both uphill and down (remember that thrilling descent from the Dauphine a few years back?) he is box office to watch.
French AG2R rider Benoit Cosnefroy has opened the European road racing season by winning the unofficial season opening event, GP La Marseilleaise.
Brief highlights from the French Federation as it was the Coupe de France opener are below…