The French starlet has had a relatively quiet build up to the Tour, recording two top-10 at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
However Bardet came alive at the Tour de France after a slow start on stage one saw him sit in 63rd. Stages two, three and four were all for the sprinters but Bardet took the opportunity to move himself up to 23rd right before the race’s first mountain stage at La Planche des Belles Filles. The first summit finish of the race on stage five saw Bardet miss out on valuable bonus seconds as Fabio Aru staked his claim for the yellow jersey.
Having moved into seventh, Bardet found himself in the top 10 for the first time of the race. Stages six and seven saw Marcel Kittel dominate as the AG2R La Mondiale rider maintained his seventh place in the race.
Stage eight looked like a great place for Bardet to attack but the day instead went to breakaway rider and upcoming star, Lilian Calmejane of Direct Energie, who soloed his way to victory.
The race’s second battle of the overall contenders came the following day on stage nine. In AG2R La Mondiale’s heartland the stage was set for Bardet to capitalise. Early efforts saw his team take control of the race but after a wet descent of the Mont du Chat the favourites found themselves together in a reduced bunch sprint. Finishing fourth the Frenchman just missed out on some more bonus seconds as Rigoberto Uran stole the show with just two gears after a mechanical in the final kilometres.
Away from the mountains on stage 10 and 11 saw Kittel continue his dominating run on the flats with Bardet holding his 3rd placing that he achieved on stage nine.
The French rider’s time finally came on stage 12 where a well timed attack saw Bardet take teh plaudits on a gruelling uphill finish. With Froome cracking and unwillingly losing the yellow jersey for the the first ever time, things were starting to look up for the French hopeful.
Stages 15 and 16 were relatively quiet affairs for the GC group apart from crosswinds on stage 16 that saw Dan Martin as the only overall rival to lose time.
Once again the race took to the mountains on stage 17 where Romain Bardet and fellow yellow jersey hunters had targeted as the place to take Froome down. However, a wonderfully timed attack by former ski jumper, Primoz Roglic saw him descend down the Col du Galibier alone to victory.
With a summit finish up the Col d’Izoard on stage 18, many though that this may be the time for Froome to falter. However, the Brit fended off Bardet’s attacks and held on. Barguil once again took the stage win in his polka dot jersey. Bardet commented on the ferocity of the finish saying he could barely breath after finishing.
Saving himself for the final time trial of the Tour, Bardet stayed safe in the peloton on the longest stage of the Tour on stage 19. On the penultimate stage, he lost time on Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) to move into third on GC, but maintained his podium place as the race rolled into Paris, just one second in front of Mikel Landa (Team Sky).
Romain Bardet’s career to date
A much touted “new hope” for French cycling, Romain Bardet’s career has been under scrutiny ever since finishing sixth in his second ever Tour de France in 2014, where he also won the award for most combative rider. The young rider solidified his will to attack with a stage victory in the 2015 edition where he soloed his way to victory on stage 18 with some impeccable descending. His title of the next French Tour de France hope were secured even more after finishing second in the 2016 iteration behind Chris Froome.
A strong climber, Bardet can go toe to toe with the likes of Quintana and Froome when the gradient starts to ramp. However, the AG2R La Mondiale rider will need to up his time trialling if he is to succeed against the likes of future GC contenders like Tom Dumoulin and Bob Jungels.