Au revoir Thibaut Pinot. One darling out, another darling in. Such is the fickle nature of sport and fame and click bait sports news cycles.
A few short seasons ago, coming off Pinot’s podium performance in the 2014 Tour de France, the French hopped on the bandwagon and christened him a future winner of Le Grand Shindig.
Flame-out followed by flame-out. Pinot experienced a bad run of misfortune, mistakes, mechanicals, assorted merde and rode his way off the darling list. Now he’s targeting the Giro d’Italia and hoping to regain his poise and his promise.
In the meantime, little climber Romain Bardet has now taken up the mantle of Best Hope for Victory in Le Tour, the long awaited follow-up to Bernard Hinault, the last winner of the home grand tour back in 1985.
Will Bardet follow the Badger?
This AG2R boss Vincent Laveneau certainly thinks he’s got a live one on the roster. Bardet is focused, intellgenent and ambitious and light enough to go uphill at Nairo Quintana speeds. Put him in a Tour de France with a shortage of time trial kilometers and with both luck and others misfortune, he might just win it all.
C’est possible. Vraiment. C’est bien possible.
It’s hard not to like Bardet and over-value his chances. He rode a smart and aggressive Tour de France last year and on stage 19 —- on a rainy descent down Mont Blanc, he attacked, won the stage and jumped from fifth to second on GC.
The counter argument was that Froome never saw him as a dangerous rival and saw no need to chase him down a wet road when Bardet began the day almost five minutes behind the yellow jersey. In all he pulled back a minute on Froome but was still four minutes down in Paris.
So the question is whether Bardet is more Pinot or more Hinault. Even a little bit of Badger might one day get him to the top step of the Tour de France.