Reigning Tour de France mountain king set for TDU debut
A FRENCH star of a French team that finished second overall at the Tour de France and claimed last year's king of the mountain jersey at the classic is about to make his debut at the Tour Down Under.
Romain Bardet, 29, from AG2R-La Mondiale arrived in Adelaide at the weekend with two French teammates Axel Domont, 29, and Clement Chevrier, 27.
"We need to gain some height on 2019,'' Bardet posted on Instagram from Mount Lofty before the end-of-year celebrations.
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Domont and Chevrier must have led the French star to the highest point of the southern Mount Lofty Ranges having raced in Adelaide twice each but not as teammates.
Bardet stayed with local doctor David Stapleton - who is working for AG2R-La Mondiale during the SA race - before hooking up with Domont and Chevrier in an eastern suburbs Airbnb.
Bardet last month said he won't be racing at this year's Tour de France.
Instead he'll start his season at the Tour Down Under before tackling the Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a España and aiming for one-day titles at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and UCI World Championships where he finished second in 2018.
Bardet finished second overall at the Tour de France in 2016 behind winner Chris Froome and third in the 2017 edition which Froome also claimed.
Bardet also won three stages of the Tour de France - 2015, 2016 and 2017 - before claiming last year's prestigious polka dot jersey but perhaps wine is also on the agenda in SA.
Bardet's teammate Chevrier has a degree in oenology - a study of wines - and lives in the wine province of Beaujolais where he runs a business as a sommelier.
He arrived in Adelaide early last year to prepare for the race but also did some wine-tasting in the famous SA wine regions.
The French outfit is the only team to have featured at every Tour Down Under event since its debut in 1999 producing four overall winners as more stars start planning to make their trek to SA.
And as 2015 Tour Down Under winner Rohan Dennis was having fun in Adelaide on his new Team INEOS bike and kit on New Year's Eve, Italian sprint gun Elia Viviani is on his way to his fifth SA race.
He will make his debut for his new WorldTour team Cofidis-Solutions Crédits and looks set to resume a rivalry with Caleb Ewan, Australia's highest ranked cyclist in the UCI world rankings at No. 20 - 12 places below the Italian.
Viviani claimed two stages of the Tour Down Under compared to Lotto Soudal's Ewan's seven stage wins before the Italian pipped the Australian at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race last year.
Viviani is also preparing to defend that lucrative UCI WorldTour one day race crown in Victoria on February 2.