While four time Tour de France winner Chris Froome continues his rehab from injury, one thing he won’t have to worry about are two former Tour rivals.
Today, Frenchman Romain Bardet announced he would skip the Tour after six editions to switch things up and ride the Giro d’Italia. Bardet has been second twice in La Grand Boucle but had a dispiriting performance in the 2019 edition where he was never a factor in the high mountains.
“It’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly,” Bardet said, “but it’s time to do something different.” So cross the little French climber off the list of potential Tourcontenders — not that Froome, Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas are exactly worried. They’ve won the last three Tours and have a physical and financial stranglehold on the race.
In short, Bardet has decided he doesn’t want to follow the Ineos train around France. He wants a refresh and a clean slate. “It will allow me to completely get outside my comfort zone,” said Bardet. “It will allow me to improve and progress as a rider, and will also serve as experience in view of future Tours.” So call it Bardet’s Italian grand tour vacation before he returns to the Tour pressure cooker.
Vincenzo Nibali has also taken a look at the Froome, Bernal and Thomas juggernaut and decided to stay home in Italy. His Trek Segafredo team manager Luca Guercilena outlined the Italian’s program: “It’s going to be the Giro d’Italia, the Olympics in Tokyo, the Worlds in Switzerland,” said Guercilena. “These are the main goals for Vincenzo.” One could also say his goal is to avoid yet another frustrating Tour as Froome and Ineos grind him down to an exhausted and empty husk.
So while Froome diligently works his way back to health, he can relax knowing that except for a powerful Jumbo Visma squad, he can be confident that his odds of winning a fifth Tour de France have gone up to a significant degree.
It also seems doubtful that Jumbo Visma will bring Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic to the 2010 Tour. Dumoulin and Vuelta a España winner Primoz Roglic are excellent time trailers but the Tour will feature only a mountainous 36 kilometer test against the clock that comes on the penultimate stage. Meanwhile, the Giro dishes up three delicious time trials.
Perhaps Froome and Ineos will have even less rivals to beat as the Briton tries to join the five-time winner club with Hinault, Indurain, Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx. That road to victory is already less crowded.