• Romain Bardet at the 2018 Tour de France. (Getty)Source: Getty
The pressure on a French rider in a French race cannot be underestimated, more so if your name is Romain Bardet and you are expected to lead the general classification charge at Paris-Nice.
7 Mar 2019 - 8:31 AM 

The AG2R La Mondiale star is keeping his eye on the Tour de France prize even as he hopes for a breakthrough at this weekend's Paris-Nice where he has never performed to his usual abilities.

Following an encouraging start to the early 2019 season where he posted three top-10 finishes, Bardet is heading into his seventh Paris-Nice, where he has just one career top-10 overall result.

Aware of the importance of the race on the French calendar, he is playing down his chances and keeping his focus on the main objective of the season at the Tour.

“The month of March will be very important. This is when we will see if the work put in during winter pays off. I am not worried because physically, I feel that I am at a good level," Bardet said.

"That doesn’t necessarily guarantee a result, because you can always have an off day on a key stage of Paris-Nice. I can’t take anything for granted, but I think I am in good shape.

“It's a race [Paris-Nice] I've never managed to handle properly, so I'm going with a lot of caution. I never know what to expect. The format suits me a little less than that of the Dauphiné, for example.

"There are one or two hard stages on Paris-Nice, versus four on the Dauphiné. I am a rider who loves the heat and I feel stronger when after I have put in a good amount of racing.

"In Paris-Nice, up until now I have never managed to find this level of performance, but we'll see if I get there this year.”

No matter his ambitions and eventual result, Paris-Nice remains a stepping stone to July for Bardet but he insists he would still like to make an impact.

“I see the season as a linear progression just until the Tour de France. And what I’m looking for in races like Paris-Nice are moments when I’m taking a new step forward.

"I realize that with Paris-Nice, the story is still to be written. Up until now, my best memory is the Brioude stage when in my second year as a professional, in 2013.

"On that day I was the protagonist of the race but as the French calendar is very important to me, I want to shine at Paris-Nice before the end of my career.”

Casting his eye over the route, the AG2R team leader is cautious. Pointing to the 25.5km Stage 5 time trial in Barbentane as a hurdle and shifting the focus to team-mate Tony Gallopin, a well-rounded rider with punchy climbing legs and ability against the clock.

"There will also be a quite significant time-trial compared to the difficulties in the mountains and that does not work in my favour," Bardet said.

"Among those who will race for the general classification, I think that I am one of the few that has not yet ridden in a time-trial this season.

"I will be very serious and committed. But I mostly target the Dauphiné and the Tour. Of course, I want to do well, to get a positive result and move the team forward. In fact, we will have another contender with Tony Gallopin.”

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