Romain Bardet celebrates victory atop the Pico Villuercas on stage 14 of the Vuelta a España.

Bardet: ‘I’ve been second too many times.’

Stage 14 winner Romain Bardet celebrates Team DSM’s third victory at the 2021 Vuelta a España.

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Romain Bardet (Team DSM) took a terrific win on stage 14 of the Vuelta a España, climbing away from his breakaway companions on the final climb to Pico Villuercas. This result is his second victory on Spanish soil just this August, bringing his career count up to nine.

“It’s been a long wait. It means a lot,” Bardet said after the stage. “I’ve been second too many times. Today I went full gas to be in the good break. I know that taking the polka-dot jersey it’d be a double victory. It’s fantastic.”

After ending a three-and-a-half year drought on stage 3 of the Vuelta a Burgos earlier this month, Bardet is having a wonderful first year with Team DSM. It’s a move he’s described as “a breath of fresh air” after a nine-year spell at AG2R where he felt the pressure of being tipped as ‘France’s next big GC hope’. 

After an up-and-down start to the Vuelta, Bardet – now a stage hunter – got into the 18-strong breakaway that escaped early in the stage. With the peloton happy to leave the stage to the leaders, the gap was over ten minutes by the first categorised climbs.

The 2016 Tour de France runner-up played a smart game throughout the stage, staying out of the way until it mattered. He made a few appearances on the earlier climbs as he hunted down KOM points, but after helping to chase down a few moves, he made only a couple of probing accelerations before his last punishing attack inside the last 6 km.

“I had a hard time catching the other guys in front of me because I had the feeling that no one really wanted to commit in the break,” Bardet said. “I think we played it smart with my sports director [Matt Winston] and he told me exactly when to attack on the steepest part of the climb and go for it as if the finish was there in front of me. I opened a good gap and made it to the finish.”

Team DSM came into the Vuelta a España with just five wins in 2021, but they now tie with Deceuninck-QuickStep as the ‘winningest’ team at the Vuelta so far. Tour de l’Ain winner Michael Storer took both stages 7 & 10, and Bardet brought the tally to three with Saturday’s victory. 

“Everyone is tired but the spirit is so high in the team, we’ve had three stage wins and a podium, so the morale is high,” Bardet said. “We’re all focused and I’m so happy to be part of a good group of guys. We’re enjoying ourselves and trying to do our best for the team. It’s an amazing Vuelta.”

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