Romain Bardet's band of merry men is a balanced mix of riders built for the cobbles and the mountains.
Cycling Central

AG2R La Mondiale
20 Jun 2018 - 11:10 AM  UPDATED 20 Jun 2018 - 11:15 AM

The line-up features six of the seven riders who were there for their French leader at the Dauphine with Alexandre Geniez and Silvan Dillier taking the other two spots. 

AG2R La Mondiale General Manager Vincent Lavenu said the team is "a balance between the great riders, powerful, and able to protect Romain Bardet in the first part of the Tour through the cobbles as well as in the team time trial, and then the climbers who will be capable of staying with him far into the mountains."

2018 Paris-Roubaix runner-up Dillier was recruited for the opening week's flats and cobbles. And although Oliver Naesen, who this year finished 12th at Paris-Roubaix and 11th at the Tour of Flanders, is also built for these potentially troublesome stages, he showed at the recent Dauphine he can support Bardet when the road gets a bit higher. It's the same with Gallopin, Lavenu said.

Axel Domont and Pierre Latour also bring their versatility while more pure climbers Alexandre Geniez - 11th overall at the 2018 Giro d'Italia - and Alexis Vuillermoz will be the last ones standing with their leader in the mountains.

“We are going to approach the Tour de France with legitimate ambitions that we have had since 2014," Lavenu said. "Our group is even stronger than last year with a charismatic leader who is gaining momentum within the hierarchy, and aiming to shine at the highest level."

"We will remain humble and realistic because the competition is very strong."

Bardet began his season with a notable recon of the 2018 Tour de France cobbles and finished second on the Strade Bianche gravel. He also took to the cobbles in race mode at Dwars door Vlaanderen (finishing 73rd).

Dauphine: watch Sky chase back on after Thomas' puncture as AG2R puts the hammer down

While survival will be key in the opening 10 days, given the tough men in the armory including Bardet himself, it would be no surprise to see AG2R throw the hammer down on the cobbles should the opportunity arises. 

As they showed on the final stage of the Dauphine after yellow jersey Geraint Thomas punctured on the descent of the Col des Saises, Bardet and his charges are unafraid to show this type of aggression.