The Frenchman jumped from fifth to second place overall in the Tour with two days to race, on the Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc stage, in 2016. With the result, he now appears to be a true contender for the Tour overall. But it will take more than strength to knock Froome off the top step, it will take some tactics.
“Let’s try it!” Bardet said in the warm Muscat air, where tomorrow he starts his 2017 season in the Tour of Oman.
“How? Maybe we can try to do a mix like Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador did in the Vuelta a España last year on the stage to Formigal, or we can go on the downhill like last year in the Tour de France. In a mix like that, we can make some things happen.”
Sky’s budget was reported at £24 million for the 2015 season – double and even triple than some other WorldTour teams it competes against. Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) said last year that “[it] is very difficult to compete in such conditions.”
“It’s not just about the budget,” Bardet added. “Chris Froome is certainly the best rider for the stage races and he has on side some riders who can be leaders in other teams, so when you have this mix in one team then for sure they are hard to beat.
“But you know cycling is a great sport that’s not very predictable and we can have one or two stages that can be dangerous in the Tour and make things turn around.
“That’s what I hope because we all know that if Froome stays with his team-mates and it goes to the finish then he’s hard to beat.”
Bardet is building again for the Tour de France this 2017 season. Last year, he finished 4-05 off of Froome in a tight five-way race for second place.
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The pressure has not increased, but the team’s attention to detail has. General manager Vincent Lavenu believes in 26-year-old Bardet’s chances more than ever now given the result.
“The team hasn’t changed [in terms of expectations],” Bardet said. “For sure maybe the attention that we can all have on the details has changed. From the French public, it’s different. There are more expectations.”
“Every French rider that comes through, that’s the case and I’m not the first one. We’re just going to try to keep doing our best and improving as athletes.
“For sure [the fans are waiting for the next French win after Bernhard Hinault’s in 1985] but it’s just not about winning the Tour it’s about being the best I can be.
“Maybe it’s winning other smaller races. I love cycling all season, so these races in Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico would be perfect.”
Bardet last year placed second on the summit finish stage to Green Mountain and second overall in the Tour of Oman race behind Vincenzo Nibali.
Nibali went on to win the Giro d’Italia and Bardet, of course, went to the Tour and took his second place.