By Julien Pretot
BELFORT, France (Reuters) – Romain Bardet was aiming at no less than overall victory on the Tour de France, but after only six stages the Frenchman has been left ashamed of himself and virtually out of contention.
Second overall in 2016 and third in 2017, the 28-year-old AG2R-La Mondiale rider started the race full of ambition despite a below-par season and his limited time-trialling abilities.
But Bardet, who has three Tour stage wins to his name, was convinced that aggressive tactics would see him cause havoc in the mountains.
It fell flat, however, as he lost over a minute to defending champion Geraint Thomas in Thursday’s hilltop finish at La Planche des Belles Filles, where his team expected him to get into the groove after they lost ground in the team time trial.
Overall, Bardet lies 26th, 2:08 adrift of Thomas.
“There was a lot of disappointment yesterday, even a feeling of shame towards his team mates and towards himself,” his sports director Julien Jurdie told reporters before the start of Friday’s seventh stage to Chalon sur Saone.
“Shame is a word that he used. He made huge sacrifices to be here, we know how committed he is.”
For all the swashbuckling talks at AG2R-La Mondiale, the French team seem far from fulfilling their ambitions.
“I’ve got the feeling that I was not at the required level after all the hard work I’ve done,” Bardet, who has not won on the World Tour stage in two years, told reporters.
“I felt like I was a spectator of the race. The legs did not respond like I wanted them to, it’s not a good sign.”
Bardet, however, has a never-say-die attitude, even if his recent form and the time he has already lost suggest he will not make it onto the podium in Paris.
“I feel revengeful. I want to race with my guts. Yesterday was a big setback but there are a lot more stages left. I came for more than this. It’s just starting,” he added.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)