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"On paper, we'll both be protected riders. However, the course will later force us to be proactive, reactive, and pragmatic. We'll adapt to the results and race circumstances throughout the week," Romain Bardet told ASO.

Photo: AG2R LA MONDIALE / Kramon

CARLOS ALBERTO BETANCUR

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ROMAIN BARDET

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07.03.2014 @ 20:01 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

Everything went smoothly in the beginning of the 2014 season for the young Ag2r-La Mondiale talent Romain Bardet, as the 23-year old Frenchman managed to finish twelfth overall in his first appearance of the year at the star-studded Tour of Oman, winning the young riders’ classification in the process, and was followed by the victory in the La Drome Classic last Sunday. Now Bardet will line up alongside Carlos Betancur at the start of the Paris-Nice to form the Ag2r’s explosive duo capable of tearing the Race to the Sun apart.

 

The 23-year old Frenchman will share the leadership role at Ag2r with dangerous, yet not having reached his optimal physical condition Betancur. The 24-year old Colombian puncher, seen last time carrying approximately additional six kilos comparing to his racing weight, surprised the world of cycling by sprinting his way to the victory at the Tour du Haut Var, his first one in the outfit of the French World Tour team following the impressive string of second places claimed last season.

 

Even though other cyclists are considered favorites to take the final spoils when the Paris-Nice comes to its conclusion, just to mention the defending champion Riche Porte (Team Sky), Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) or presumably being in a splendid disposition Tejay van Garderen (BMC), the Ag2r in-form duo is certainly able to wreak havoc in the peloton on the lumpy stages of this year’s edition of the French stage race.

 

Questioned by race organizers, Bardet admitted to be very happy with a successful start to the 2014 season.

 

"Everything is going as I expected. I chose not to race in January and to begin my season quite late, at the Tour of Oman. It all went smoothly, with the opportunity to tweak my form and, most importantly, to ride at a high pace in the stage to Green Mountain [stage 8]," Bardet told ASO.

 

"Last weekend I went back to a different style of racing at the Classic Sud Ardèche and the Drôme Classic. Everything turned out great at these nervous races, in both of which I had to step to the fore, and I was able to pick up my first professional win in a one-day race. It is crucial for me to build confidence ahead of my objective, Paris-Nice."

 

The 23-year old French talent also stated to be pleased to share the leadership role with Betancur as it leaves more possibilities opened dependently on how the race will develop.

 

"On paper, we'll both be protected riders. However, the course will later force us to be proactive, reactive, and pragmatic. We'll adapt to the results and race circumstances throughout the week.

 

Bardet also acknowledged that the route of the coming edition of Paris-Nice, the reason why most of grand tours’ strongest contenders have chosen Tirreno-Adriatico over the overlapping French race this year, is well suited to his characteristics as it lacks the long time-trial.

 

"I was obviously happy when I saw there'd be no time trialling. I also think there isn't a single queen stage in which the riders of a given team can set the race on fire for their leader. This means we'll have to be on the hunt for top places and seconds every single day. "

 

"To do this, we'll have to go on the attack. Wednesday will be the first test after a handful of stages in which we'll have to be extra careful with the wind."

 

Despite being regarded as a big talent and mostly living up to those expectations, Bardet usually has to give way to his more experienced team-mates as race leaders. Thus, he is satisfied with an opportunity to gain experience as a team’s captain in the first World Tour event of the calendar held in Europe.

 

"My aim is starting to fill the leader's boots and achieving a good result in the overall classification. It's the logical next step in my progression, which will be spread across several seasons. But I can already say I feel stronger than last year.

 

"There's no way I could have gone so fast at this time of the season back then. This doesn't mean the learning phase is over, quite the opposite, but I want to get used to riding like the men who finish these races at the top."

 

"If my legs agree and the opportunity arises, I won't think twice before tearing up all these plans next week." 

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