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After taking sixth in the 2014 Tour de France, Ag2r la Mondiale rider Romain Bardet has made his ambitions clear as he prepares for his first race of the current season.
The 24 year old made important progress last season, improving his overall performance in the Tour from 15th to that sixth place and also winning both La Drome Classic and the young rider classification in the Tour of Oman.
His other results include second in the Tour de l’Ain, fourth in the Volta a Catalunya and fifth in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Still at an age where he should continue to improve for several more years, he said that he is hungry to build on what he has done thus far.
“I always want more. I want to confirm 2014 both in quality and quantity,” he stated, speaking as the days tick down to his first year of the year.
“I want to progress but I know that my progression may be less spectacular than last year. I want to take a step forward in stage races and improve my ranking in Classics. The Tour de Catalogne is a first important goal. I dream of Liege Bastogne Liège … and, of course, I want to do my best in the Tour de France.”
France has long been waiting for the next wave of Grand Tour riders from that country, particularly as the last home winner of the race was Bernard Hinault back in 1985. The thirty year gap has been a very long one to bear, but there were encouraging signs last year when three of its riders finished in the top six.
Bardet’s team-mate Jean-Christophe Péraud was second overall, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) was third and Bardet finished just over three minutes off the podium and just two seconds off Tejay van Garderen’s fifth place.
He will begin his new campaign on Sunday when he lines out in the GP Cycliste La Marseillaise, and lays out his expectations.
“I’m impatient to start the season. I have been training hard for three months and now I want to race,” he said.
“I have been a professional for four years and I always begin with this race. It’s the opening of the season in France and we always have good time there. It’s the first meeting of the teams, the course is not too long (140 km), the race is often lively even though it often ends with a sprint between 30 riders.”
He pledged that the Ag2r La Mondiale team would take an aggressive approach and would launch repeated attacks.
As far as his condition goes, he said that he followed the same approach as in the past and believed that he was in the right place.
“I kept what worked in the past. My form is good for January,” he said. “I have no health problems and everything is alright.”
As regards initial goals, he wants to ride well in Paris-Nice, which begins on March 8. After that the Volta a Catalunya is another target, particularly after he finished just off the podium last year.
A solid ride there would confirm to him that he is on track for his July goal, and also reassure French fans who are desperate for a strong home display in the Tour.