Bardet and AG2R surprise with strong Dauphine TTT

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There were smiles and fist bumps all round as the AG2R La Mondiale riders crossed the line at the Critérium du Dauphiné team time trial, and more than a little surprise. They had posted the fastest time and, as directeur sportif Julien Jurdie noted, "that doesn't usually happen to us."

Granted, there were still 11 teams still to come in, but by the time they had, the tentative excitement was proved entirely justified; AG2R had placed 7th out of 22, clocking 38:03 on the 35km course.

As team leader and Tour de France hopeful Romain Bardet acknowledged, it wasn't bad for 'a team of climbers', and not bad for a team of six, Alexis Vuillermoz having left the race after a crash on Monday.

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Time trialling has always been the weakness in the Frenchman's armoury, and by extension, his team have always underwhelmed in these tests. Losing as much as 1:29 to Team Sky might have been slightly disappointing, but then again the British team wiped the floor with everyone else, and AG2R were within a minute of Quick-Step Floors, and 45 seconds of all but Team Sky and BMC Racing.

"For a team of climbers, that's a good performance. It was pretty homogenous. We were going very fast. We gave it what we had, and we rode with our hearts," Bardet told reporters at the finish in Louhans.

Bardet hasn't been coy about his ambitions of winning this year's Dauphiné, but Wednesday's stage wasn't just an important hurdle in the context of this week, but in the context of the whole summer, the whole season even. At the Tour de France he will encounter a team time trial of exactly the same length, and of a similar profile, on stage 3. Limiting his losses could have a big say in whether he can turn his podium finishes from the past two editions into a first overall victory for France since 1985.

‘The hard work is paying off’

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

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