The French are currently undergoing a bit of a renewed cycling boom with now consistent performer Pierre Rolland climbing to victories on the likes of Alpe d'Huez whilst proving a perfect right hand man for already French favourite Thomas Voeckler and Thibaut Pinot entering the WorldTour in such style last year with a top 10 finish overall in the Tour de France, becoming the youngest rider to do so since Raymond Impanis in 1947. But what about Romain Bardet?
Well at roughly the same age as Pinot, Bardet too is starting to show some promise when the roads head skywards. He was most notable in last years Tour of Turkey where on stage 3 the Frenchman attacked relentlessly on steep climbs eventually finishing fifth on the day and a respectable fifth overall. So he didn't win anything but his aggression and flare count for much, especially to his native fans. They don't just want winners, they want winners who can do it with style!
His palmares are certainly not lengthy, in fact barring his Turkish exploits they are virtually invisible but his 5th place overall there was achieved as a neo-pro. Yes Bardet only turned professional last year - he's learning his trade, it's early days and when results like this come along they show promise for a bright future. It wasn't just in Turkey either - he lead the Amstel Gold Race for most of the day back in April and but in a big attack on the Ghisallo during the Giro di Lombardia in September! Prior to turning professional though, top 5 placings at junior level and in the intervening years are a'plenty, finishing three stages in the top three at the 2011 Tour de l'Avenir, winning stage 5 and finishing 6th overall in 2010 and 2011. The Tour de l'Avenir is a smaller version of the Tour de France for amateurs and young pro's raced over much of the same mountainous terrain, those that perform well here are often touted as prospects for the future.
AG2R suffered last year without much to show for their season long efforts so riders on the roster here will have nowhere to hide in 2013 and will be expected to perform - this means we could see young riders like Bardet at the business end of the peloton alot more throughout the year. Romain Bardet has already gained a good result for the team in 2013, as I mentioned earlier. He finished 7th overall in the Étoile de Bessèges - an early season five day stage race in Southern France with some testing climbs. It looks like his early season form could be on the money, watch this space...