Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) believes that he can finally end the drought in the Tour de France for his home country.
Bardet, 28, has placed second and third already. He believes around the corner is a win, which would end the long 34-year gap since France’s last winner, Bernard Hinault in 1985.
“We’re sick of hearing about it but to be honest it’s fair enough,” Bardet told AFP of the drought.
“It sounds like a lot, but I believe I can do it because I’ve always been in the top-10.”
Bardet has already won three stages in the Tour, his last to Peyragudes in 2017.
He placed second in 2016 and third in 2017, both times behind Team Sky’s Chris Froome. Last summer, he placed sixth behind Team Sky winner Geraint Thomas.
He added: “If I can continue my progress and find that grain of genius that allows me to continue to dream further and continue to believe in myself, then everything will gather together for me to go further.”
Bardet lost time in the first week in 2018 due to crashes and mechanicals and began the first mountain day almost two minutes behind. The Worlds, finishing second behind Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), nearly made up for the bad luck.
He remains determined, so much so he pushed aside a brief consideration to race the 2019 Giro d’Italia in May for the Tour, which runs from July 6 to 28.
“With the high altitude, a high number of mountain stages and even one that runs through the town where I was born and a super tough Alpine finish, I simply had to concentrate on the Tour [over the Giro],” he said.
“The route of this Tour is made for an attack-minded rider who wants to set things alight.”
Bardet, as well as others, have been criticised for not attacking to try to break Sky’s hold on the Tour de France. The British super-team won every edition since 2012, except for 2014 when Froome abandoned early.
“You need to go close to learn, to have a brush with success before being able to get the big wins,” Bardet replied when asked if he lacked that attacking instinct.
“That’s how I’ve been playing it and I’m very close and if I keep at it something will open up.
“I can now maintain a high, stable level of performance that will allow me to go full-on in 2019 and achieve an even higher level. If I can step up one more level I’ll be there.”