• Bad day Bardet... AG2R's Romain Bardet had a less than ordinary ride Saturday in Utrecht. (AFP)Source: AFP
We're only one day, less than 14km of a mammoth 3300km in to this year's Tour - yet Romain Bardet's hopes of a high finish in Paris are already in a tail-spin, writes Al Hinds.
By
5 Jul 2015 - 3:32 PM  UPDATED 5 Jul 2015 - 3:50 PM

The 24-year-old Frenchman, who finished sixth in last year's Tour with a series of fine performances in the mountains, lost near a minute to compatriot Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and was 1'34 behind stage winner Rohan Dennis. The time trial, a technical, narrow run through the packed streets of Utrecht, was never going to play to Bardet's strengths - but the magnitude of the loss will be more difficult to recoup this year, perhaps more than any other.

"The rider who mitigates those time leakages best will be the man who stands in yellow in Paris."

If this year's Tour followed the formula of the archetypal, it would be folly to dwell on Bardet - the road is long, and the Tour's major tests always come in the Pyrenees and Alps. For Bardet, that would normally be the way back; employ a conservative approach before the Tour's first key mountains and then catapult himself up the classement as the race simmers into action.

But this year is rather extraordinary. For this is a cruel first week; a cruel first nine days for the Tour's contenders to settle themselves. Perhaps this evening (AEST), Stage 2 will give momentary respite, as will stages five and seven, to Amiens and Fougeres. But otherwise, until the race hits its first rest day in Pau, before even a single major mountain, the Tour will throw five more testing days at the GC men that could all but decide the race for yellow.

As exciting as the third week promises to be, it's far more likely that the stages to Huy, Cambrai, the Mur de Bretagne, and even the team time trial in Vannes, will do more to shape the GC than say, Plateau de Beille or Alpe d'Huez. Which, of course, isn't to say that those stages won't have an impact - just don't be surprised to see the most damaging losses, both in morale and on the timesheet, sustained in the next few days. 

For anyone vying for the top spot in Paris, this first week will be a test of resilience.

Thirty seconds here and there, could be three, four, five minutes by the time we hit Pau. By my bet, the rider who mitigates those time leakages best will be the man who stands in yellow in Paris. This year's Tour is about the most complete rider; the rider that can skirt the chaos of the cobbles, compose a good time trial, as well as dance on the pedals in the Alps - and by this criteria, it appears Bardet has already been exposed.