Romain Bardet believed he could win last year’s Giro d’Italia before illness forced him to abandon after two weeks, but as he begins his 2023 season, he has acknowledged that Tour de France victory will always remain out of reach.
Podium finishes at the Tour in 2016 and 2017 ignited home hopes that Bardet might become the first French winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985, but his best performances since have been his 6th-place finishes of 2018 and 2022.
Bardet will return to the Tour in 2023, his third season at DSM, and during the off-season he spoke of his desire to emulate Geraint Thomas’ approach to last year’s race. Despite an amenable route, however, he acknowledged that a podium finish is the summit of his ambitions in July in the Tadej Pogačar era.
“In fact, I don’t even think about it anymore. I don’t think about winning the Tour de France anymore,” Bardet told L’Équipe (opens in new tab).
“Last year, I thought about it during the Giro, I felt I could win. But in the Tour, I am no longer among the favourites, that’s obvious. With Jai Hindley and Richard Carapaz [first and second on the 2022 Giro – ed.], I know I can beat them when I’m on top form.
“But with Tadej Pogačar, it’s over. It’s as simple as that. If one day I manage to drop him in the high mountains in the Tour, so much the better, but it’s not a fixed idea.”
Bardet begins his 2023 season on Friday at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var before riding next weekend’s Ardèche and Drome Classic doubleheader and then lining out at Paris-Nice. After making the Giro an objective for the past two years, Bardet’s stage racing focus in 2023 is likely to be the Tour.
The 32-year-old acknowledged that he is entering the final phase of his career. “I’m conscious of being close to the end, I don’t see myself racing until 38,” said Bardet, whose contract expires at end of 2024. He added that his remaining ambitions included winning a stage on the Giro to complete his set of Grand victories and enjoying at least one clear run at the Tour GC.
“The podium, if possible: I’ve been sixth three times, but nobody cares about that,” he said.
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