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The Frenchman won the Peyragudes summit finish on stage 12 at the 2017 Tour and placed third, 2-20 minutes behind winner Chris Froome (Sky) in the overall. Afterwards, he returned to Vuelta, his debut and first time to race two Grand Tours in one season.
Some questions surfaced when he slipped behind by 49 seconds on the short and punchy stage five finish to Santa Lucía in Alcossebre on Wednesday. He now sits 12th overall at 1-37, again behind leader Froome, with over two weeks to race.
“For sure I have big expectations but I want to see how my form goes over three weeks,” Bardet told Cycling Weekly.
“But for sure, if I can make the podium, I will go for it, but it’s not the main priority. When I go to the Tour, it’s all for the overall. But since this is the first time, it’s hard to say that I’ll be as good as I was in the Tour for the three weeks here in Spain.
“I just want to do my job and do things well, and see if I can do it. For me the main thing is to just enjoy it here and go for a stage win.”
In of the last three editions, Bardet has ridden to a stage win in the Tour de France while improving in the overall classification.
There is every reason to believe he can succeed in Spain, especially given it features many mountain days and nine summit finishes.
The Vuelta a España also plays a part in Bardet’s development. One, he will want to see how his body responds to two three-week races in one season and two, the Spanish tour could pave the way to 2018 success.
“It’s a good time for me to learn. In fact I am just taking it easy in the Vuelta and going stage-by-stage to see what happens. I hope to try to win a stage. I need to get this experience and see what to do in the future,” he added.
“I’m 26 and it’s a good time to do it. I really enjoy the situation and the Vuelta. For sure I’m tired after the Tour and making the podium at the Tour, but I hope to be there fighting in the Vuelta’s mountain stages.”
The Vuelta also features a 40.2-kilometre time trial. The discipline is Bardet’s weak point, which he showed when he nearly lost his third place in the Tour’s Marseille time trial, stage 20, by one second to Mikel Landa (Sky).
“Yes, but that’s not the only point that I need to improve on because maybe I can be the strongest rider in the mountains, and that’s what I like in cycling,” he said.
“The Tour was not too mountainous this year and I hope that have a route that is more mountainous in the future.”