"Otherwise, I would have already stopped," cries Bardet after Liège: "Frame photo with Pogacar and Van der Poel for son" Cycling

"Otherwise, I would have already stopped," cries Bardet after Liège: "Frame photo with Pogacar and Van der Poel for son"

"Otherwise, I would have already stopped," cries Bardet after Liège: "Frame photo with Pogacar and Van der Poel for son"

Romain Bardet has not had the easiest of years, so the joy, relief, and emotion were palpable when the Frenchman of DSM-Firmenich surprised PostNL on Sunday with a second-place finish in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It marked his best performance ever in a Monument, at a time when success didn't always seem assured.

Bardet completed the final stage of the Tour of the Alps on Friday, where he secured fifth place in the general classification. His strong showing in Liège once again underscored that his form heading into the Giro d'Italia is excellent. This is a significant boost, particularly since his last victory was in 2022, during the final classification of the Tour of the Alps. In the two seasons since then, notable successes have been few and far between.

In the photo with Pogacar and Van der Poel

It is also why Bardet celebrated his second place behind the untouchable Tadej Pogacar as a victory. "I was thinking about 2018 in the final, yes. In this race, I got frustrated too often by missing good opportunities," he said in the flash interview regarding the year when a win might have been possible in Liège. Bob Jungels, however, played it smarter at the time.

"This time, after the decisive attack on La Redoute, we had to be present at that second fight and eliminate as many rivals as possible," analyzed the French climber. "I had goosebumps on Roche-aux-Faucons because it's a climb I really like. I knew it would be important because I have seen in the past that we could take advantage at this point. At that point, five seconds can be enough; you just don't have to mentally collapse."

Bardet didn't. On the contrary: the chasing group almost seemed to come back on several occasions, but the huddle and standstill helped Bardet secure second spot. "It was to be expected that Pogacar would attack on La Redoute, and we saw how strong he was. I knew at that moment that I was going to fight for the podium. I always believed it was possible; otherwise, I would have stopped already. If I continue, it is simply because I have never felt so strong on the bike. But my competitors are even stronger. If I am on the podium between Pogacar and Mathieu van der Poel, it will at least make for a beautiful photo that I can frame for my son."

Bardet, like Pogacar, heads to the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France

In short, emotional words flowed during the interview immediately after the race in Wallonia. After the podium ceremony, the amiable Frenchman, known for his affable demeanor on and off the racecourse, returned to the cycling newsroom, including IDLProCycling.com. "I indeed felt really strong," he stressed. "But when Tadej went on the Redoute, there was no way to follow him. I wasn't quite positioned well on that climb, but when I looked ahead, I saw he was flying. I knew then that we were fighting for places of honor.

"There was a good chance I was going to get caught in the closing stages," Bardet concluded. "The headwind made it very difficult. But with several teams having multiple riders represented, it became a stop-and-go affair, which may have played to my advantage. I simply wanted to fully focus on my own race and rode as hard as I could on my own. I'm extremely happy that it paid off.

According to Bardet, La Doyenne had not necessarily been a priority or main goal, but it is one of his favorite one-day races. "It's not that I specifically prepared for it, but rather that it was part of a larger training and racing block, which will now continue with the Giro d'Italia. The opportunity to participate in Liège was there, so I seized it. I felt very strong already during the preseason, so I think all in all, I can consider this year a successful one so far, with this serving as a sort of icing on the cake." Like the phenom Pogacar, Bardet is aiming for the well-known double, with the Tour de France also on his agenda after the Giro.

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