Inspired by fans, Bardet rides to 1st French win of Tour
SAINT-GERVAIS-LES-BAINS, France (AP) – Riding alone toward the host country’s first victory in this Tour de France, Romain Bardet switched his focus from the road to the eyes of the spectators behind the barriers.
Unlike when he captured his first stage win in last year’s Tour, Bardet wanted to fully enjoy the experience this time.
“I wanted to feel all these emotions and I wanted to enjoy my ride in the steepest part of the climb,” Bardet said. “I wanted to look at the spectators and I could see their emotions in their eyes and that inspired me. It’s worth suffering for such a famous moment.”
Bardet attacked on a slippery descent just before race leader Chris Froome crashed in the 19th stage Friday.
“It was absolutely not something we planned before,” said Bardet, who rode away with AG2R La Mondiale teammate Mikael Cherel. “He said ‘let’s go and attack downhill and see how it goes.’ … We gave it everything we had.”
Bardet eventually caught then-stage leader Rui Costa, quickly dropped the former world champion, and rode by himself up the rest of the final climb to Saint-Gervais.
The victory moved Bardet up from fifth to second in the overall standings, 4 minutes, 11 seconds behind Froome, with only one more day of climbing in the Alps before Sunday’s mostly ceremonial finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
Two-time Tour runner-up Nairo Quintana is third, 16 seconds behind Bardet.
“It’s better to have a 16-second lead than be 16 seconds behind,” Bardet said. “Tomorrow anything can happen.”
No Frenchman has won the Tour since Bernard Hinault took the last of his five titles in 1985.
“I rode without calculations,” the 25-year-old Bardet said. “We are humans and I only raced with my emotions today.”
Bardet’s teammates were in tears when they congratulated him.
“We really created a special bond at a training camp in Sierra Nevada (Spain) to prepare for this Tour,” Bardet said. “We became closer than the fingers on one hand.”
Meanwhile, Dutch rider Bauke Mollema dropped from second to 10th after he crashed on a roundabout, ending up in the trees on the side of the road.
“I slid out and was on the ground,” Mollema said. “I was fast to get back on the bike but there were tricky parts with a lot of corners and crashes in front of me.”
Mollema said he had minor injuries to his hip and elbow.