• AG2R's Romain Bardet (C) and team-mates get cooking lessons during a pre-season meet and greet. (Getty)Source: Getty
Led by Romain Bardet, the AG2R team began its preparations for the 2017 season with cooking lessons and long walks in the snow.
Cycling Central

AG2R La Mondiale
16 Nov 2016 - 11:14 AM  UPDATED 16 Nov 2016 - 5:23 PM

Romain Bardet is the Grand tour leader for AG2R and the young Frenchman, fresh from finishing second at the 2016 Tour de France, would really like to race the Giro d'Italia even though his bosses may have other ideas for their star.

The haggling between Bardet and AG2R will no doubt continue at the Vaujany ski resort where both are enjoying a relaxed meet and greet ahead of its first proper training camp in early December.

“I really want to go to the Giro, but now is 50:50,” Bardet told L’Equipe. It is a three-way discussion (the sponsor and team). “I can not ignore the economic issues."

But the biggest hurdle Bardet faces is the relative degrees of difficulty presented but the two races. The Giro will be a very hard test with longer time trials and higher mountains while the Tour presents riders with a degree of unpredictability with shallower inclines and fewer kilometres devoted to riding against the clock.

And for a Frenchman riding for a French team the Tour remains the ultimate goal.

"Experience shows the difficulties of the Giro-Tour. It would involve lots of reconnaissance and training and I would hate to then ride the Tour at a lower level,” he said.

AG2R sporting director Julien Jurdie agrees with Bardet’s assessment, telling Cyclingnews “I think this is not the right year for the Giro. The Tour is well suited to Romain, with its many ascents and descents.

"The Italians will be very motivated by this 100th edition from my point of view, it is more likely to be the Vuelta (Vuelta a Espana) rather than the Giro.”

The AG2R team bonding sessions combined cooking lessons and long walks in the snow before starting the pre-season work which they hope will bring them even greater success.

Emotional Bardet drew strength from crowd for winning ascent
Romain Bardet has turned the tables on front-runners that didn’t consider him a genuine GC contender with a stage win at the Tour de France on Friday that shot him from fifth to second overall.

Riders honed their cooking skills with two-star Michelin Chef Christophe Aribert in an exercise called “Operation Top Chef” for the first evening.

Mastering the culinary arts were Lithuanian Gediminas Bagdonas, Norwegian Sondre Holst Enger, German Nico Denz, Swiss Mathias Frank and Frenchman Nans Peters.

New riders for 2017 were introduced to the old hands, including Mathias Frank (Switzerland), Stijn Vandenbergh and Oliver Nasen (Belgium), Alex Geniez, Rudy Barbier, Julien Duval, Nans Peters, Clément Chevrier (France) and Sondre Holst Enger (Norway).

The team was then introduced to the bikes they will be riding in 2017, Factor instead of the Focus bikes of the past few seasons.

AG2R for 2017
Gediminas Bagdonas (LUT), Jan Bakelants (BEL), Romain Bardet (FRA), Julien Bérard (FRA), François Bidard (FRA), Mikaël Chérel (FRA), Nico Denz (GER), Axel Domont (FRA), Samuel Dumoulin (FRA), Hubert Dupont (FRA), Ben Gastauer (LUX), Cyril Gautier (FRA), Alexis Gougeard (FRA), Hugo Houle (Can), Quentin Jauregui (FRA), Pierre Latour (FRA), Matteo Montaguti (ITA), Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA), Christophe Riblon (FRA), Alexis Vuillermoz (FRA), Rudy Barbier (FRA), Clément Chevrier (FRA), Benoit Cosnefroy (FRA), Julien Duval (FRA), Sondre Holst Enger (NOR), Mathias Frank (SUI), Alexandre Geniez (FRA), Oliver Naesen (BEL), Nans Peters (FRA) AND Stijn Vandenbergh (BEL).