Bardet trusted the word of AG2R captains when he attacked on a descent inside the final 12km of the 146km alpine stage and stayed away to the summit finish at Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc.
It was the first French victory of the 103rd edition and was met with applause from national journalists even in the press room.
“I wanted to feel all these emotions and I wanted to enjoy my ride on the steepest part of the (last) climb,” he said. “I was looking at the spectators and I could see their emotions in their eyes and that gave me strength for going faster and giving my best.
“It was an absolutely unique moment. All year we suffer a lot but it’s worth suffering for such a fabulous moment that I could enjoy today.”
The 25-year-old marked a similar undertaking at the Criterium du Dauphine last month. There he was dismissed by some marquee contenders as any kind of threat before he jumped from third to second overall on the last stage.
Bardet said he was unaware of the drama that unfolded behind him and reshaped the general classification on Friday’s rain-soaked turn in the Alps, which saw defending Tour champion and race leader Chris Froome (Sky) crash and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) plummet from second to 10th overall.
Asked if he could win the Tour from Froome over the last mountain stage on Saturday, and before Sunday’s ceremonial run to Paris, Bardet pointed to maintaining his position on the podium.
“Tomorrow the last climb will be the Joux Plane and everything can happen there. I want to save the place on the podium in Paris. That would be fabulous,” he said.
Bardet raced with a maturity he said helped him secure victory on a summit he may not have been able to conquer in the past. He sits four minutes and 11 seconds in arrears of Froome after Stage 19 with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) a further 16 seconds adrift in third.
“I knew there was a steep part (of the final climb) where a group would have more of an advantage compared with myself alone but I also knew in the last five kilometres the gradient would suit me,” Bardet said.
“I had to pedal with my head and that’s something I would not have managed to do last year, but now I have the maturity and confidence for winning the way I won today.”
(Translation: Never stop believing.)