New generation is taking over, says Bardet

Tue Jul 12, 2016 6:10am EDT
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By Julien Pretot

LA MASSANA, Andorra (Reuters) - A new generation of professional riders is emerging intent on breaking with old habits in the peloton and doing things their own way, according to Frenchman Romain Bardet.

Speaking to Reuters on the first rest day of the Tour de France, Bardet, sixth overall in the 2014 Tour and a potential podium finisher in Paris, said riders should not be seen as brainless pedal pushers.

"We like to put a tag on cyclists -- saying they're a bit thick, just good to push on the pedals, with their shaven legs and trademark tan, but it’s not just that," the 25-year-old said.

"I hate this cliche. It’s a simplistic approach, riders are profoundly human, with their sensibility, their political awareness."

After years of Lance Armstrong domination, a new generation of riders born in the 1990s is taking over, looking to bring a breath of fresh air into a sport long plagued by Omerta -- the law of silence imposed by the disgraced American rider.

The professional peloton has until recently been ruled by self-proclaimed leaders, such as Fabian Cancellara, whose influence in the pack is still being felt.

"I have no link (with him). Cancellara has never spoken to me, I think he does not even know I’m a professional bike rider," said Bardet, a composed and articulate character who has a degree in management.

"There is a new generation coming that will have their own approach to riding although we mean no disrespect to the past. I was talking about Cancellara but Alberto Contador is a very respectful rival, who’ll pat you on the back, like Alejandro Valverde.   Continued...

AG2R La Mondiale rider Romain Bardet of France celebrates on the podium with the best climber's dotted jersey after the 138-km (85.74 miles) 19th stage of the 102nd Tour de France cycling race from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire-Les Sybelles in the French Alps mountains, France, July 24, 2015.  REUTERS/Benoit Tessier