Despite picking up the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France, becoming the third Frenchman to do it in as many years, Romain Bardet stepped off the podium and told his Ag2r La Mondiale team bosses he was contemplating quitting racing.
The 28-year-old has already announced the premature end of his season, saying he needs to refocus for 2020 after what he has described as a disappointing season, having finished in 15th place and more than 30 minutes down on Egan Bernal (Ineos) at the Tour de France, the race he based his year around attempting to win.
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Bardet said he needs to “mentally and physically regenerate” ahead of mounting another attempt to win the French Grand Tour, having come closest in 2016 when he finished second behind Chris Froome (Ineos).
According to L’Équipe, Bardet was so dispirited by his performance at the Tour, despite taking the polka dot jersey thanks to his exploits on the Galibier stage, he told Ag2r La Mondiale boss Vincent Lavenu he was thinking about quitting racing once his contract with the French team expired at the end of the 2020 season.
The pressure placed on French riders at their home Grand Tour, the biggest race on the calendar, is immense. While their usual great hope Bardet faltered, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) for 14 days, capturing the hearts and minds of the nation, while Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) mounted a valiant assault on the GC until he was forced to withdraw through injury on the penultimate mountain stage.
However, Bardet says his plans for 2020 are already looking “exciting”, as he takes the autumn off to fully recharge. “The schedule I want to race requires freshness in all areas. I will take advantage of the next few weeks to rest, while continuing to plan for the 2020 season, which is already looking very exciting,” he said.
Ag2r La Mondiale have announced their squad for the upcoming Vuelta a España, with Pierre Latour, Silvan Dillier, Clément Chevrier, Clément Venturini, Geoffrey Bouchard, François Bidard, Dorian Godon, and Quentin Jauregui lining up for the French outfit.