AFP; Photo: Bettini
French rider Romain Bardet, runner-up in the Criterium du Dauphiné, will lead the AG2R team in the Tour de France from July 2-24, team general manager Vincent Lavenu said Monday. Bardet, 25, will be backed up by Italian newcomer Domenico Pozzovivo, Belgian Jan Bakelants and French riders Mikael Cherel, Cyril Gautier, Alexis Gougeard and Alexis Vuillermoz. The two remaining riders in the nine-man team will be named after various national championships.
“The team were successful and steady in recent years and the Tour, as it is designed, should suit us,” said Lavenu. “Like most teams, we’re hope hoping for the jackpot of a stage win. “Romain (Bardet) will be the sole leader but we can’t close the door on other riders. In the overall standings he doesn’t want to jump the gun and put himself under pressure. But if he is as strong as in the Dauphiné I’m not worried while acknowledging that there are other criteria in the Tour.” Bardet finished sixth in the 2014 Tour de France and ninth in 2015. Gougeard returns after a week off following a fall on the Dauphiné, which was won by Sky’s British rider Chris Froome, Tour de France winner in 2013 and 2015.
The door remains open for Jean-Christophe Péraud, second in the 2014 Tour de France, but fighting for fitness after a fall on the Giro. “He had a difficult Tour of Switzerland, but finished correctly. We’ll talk after the French championships. But there’s no question of forcing him to race the Tour.”