Bardet and Pinot PHOTO / LIONEL BONAVENTURE

Pinot or Bardet?

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That is my question. Both want to be considered great cyclists, not great French cyclists. It is a cruel and heavy burden to be an excellent French cyclist. When are you going to win the Tour de France? Bernard Hinaults don’t come around very often, maybe never again. Hinault was the French Merckx; winning was everything. If he was not a cyclist he should have been a professional fighter. Fignon was called the professor because he was from Paris and wore glasses, not because he was an intellectual. He managed to win some Tours and not be a badger. He was not out happily slugging protesters. If Hinault had lost to Lemond by eight seconds…one, it wouldn’t have happened. Hinault would have burst his own heart to finish nine seconds faster. Two, if he had lost by eight seconds, he would have slugged Lemond so damn hard it would have put him back in the hospital.

I hope the French are happy they have any prospective Tour winners. The Americans have none. Most countries do not because it takes a special genetic freak in a sport of genetic freaks to be one. The English had to sweep their post-colonial, high altitude Kenyan supply system to come up with one. Of this French pair I have a bias toward Romain Bardet partially because he rides for AG2R and on Keepers Tour 2012 we met directeur Vincent Lavenu. VL seemed a good sort and for inexplicable, Rule ignoring reasons, I sort of like their kit, but I digress.

Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet: both 24 years old, both stage winners in the 2015 Tour, both prodigious climbers, both saddled with the “next French hope” mantle.

Judging from this edition’s Alpe d’Huez stage, Pinot actually may be be the stronger climber. If you can ride everyone off your wheel on Alpe d’Huez, you are a badass. For climbing style points, Romain wins. He is solid and smooth to Pinot’s lack of. Going downhill, if you try to pedal through a corner and catch your inside pedal (and crash) doing so, points off. Bardet descends like Philippe Gilbert, that is to say, avec grande vitesse et les grand testicules.

Being the best climber or best descender does not make a grand tour winner. A grand tour winner does not have to be the best at anything, just very capable at everything. And not sucking at anything, like descending or time trialing and not having a jour sans.

Can either of these guys time trial? If Pinot can he should, by all rights, be one podium step closer in Paris than Andy Schleck* ever got. There is a large leap between a top ten Tour finish and a podium finish. It might be a larger leap from the third podium step to the top. Pinot and Bardet are in this mix.

Neither of these guys seem like punch throwing firebrands like Hinault, which may be good. Then who can better handle the pressure of being the next Fignon?

*I can still make fun of Andy Schleck even though he retired, yes?

// Awesome French Guys // Musings from the V-Bunker

  1. Like fine wine, perhaps they need to age a little?

  2. I think I’ll go with Pinot but it’s a tough call. I was very impressed by the way that Pinot kept his cool after the big crash on stage 3 and he lost a lot of time, I thought he was going to get all huffy and whiny. He didn’t. He kept the heid and rode hard for the rest of the race. Chapeau.

  3. @wiscot

    I think I’ll go with Pinot but it’s a tough call. I was very impressed by the way that Pinot kept his cool after the big crash on stage 3 and he lost a lot of time, I thought he was going to get all huffy and whiny. He didn’t. He kept the heid and rode hard for the rest of the race. Chapeau.

    Err you did watch stage 4 or is there a typo above?

  4. Pinot and Pinot Noir, both!

  5. They are both capable, but will never do it with a French team, I’ve never seen either name linked to a team with the budget it seems you need to win a GT.

    And surely Tony Gallopin is the most exciting French rider…. if only a tour lasted 2weeks

  6. AG2R… sort of like their kit? Hmmmm. Brown shorts? And the other cat in white shorts? All very suspect.

    It’s the two Lotto teams that have it right. At least on the bottom half. But dang, the yellow and black Jumbo jerseys w/lotto balls on top of the perfect celeste bikes just doesn’t get it. I swear that the new Specialissima is certainly in the top five of good looking modern C bikes.

    Cheers for the weekend

  7. Three points:

    1. Lest we forget, GB first won the Tour with Bradley Wiggins who is as British as they come, despite being in Belgium and having an Aussie dad.

    2. Andy Shleck is down in history as having won the 2010 Tour de France, so it would be hard for Pinot to be one step higher on the podium in Paris.

    3. As @Teocalli has pointed out, Pinot was less than sanguine when things went wrong. I think Bardet handles crises far better from what we’ve seen so far of them both.

    Other than that, great article! I’d go with Bardet as the “Great Hope” myself, although think Gallopin has more to offer than his eventual Tour collapse showed…

  8. Can we call this a Burgundy (Pinot) vs. Bordeaux (Bardet) debate and prate on about wine instead of bourbon and whisky? I’ll add my tasting notes after the second bottle…

  9. Well thankfully Sports Illustrated will have neither on the cover (owing to their allegiance to sports with higher profit margins and true ignorance of out sport) which would not subject them to the curse on performance which would then follow. Perhaps no more severe than being the “Next Big French Hope” which is likely the worst curse, poor bastards.

  10. @chuckp

    Like fine wine, perhaps they need to age a little?

    Absolutely, a few more years and they will either have cracked completely or Rule V’d their way toward the top…or not.

  11. @Oli

    Three points:

    1. Lest we forget, GB first won the Tour with Bradley Wiggins who is as British as they come, despite being in Belgium and having an Aussie dad.

    No argument there, Twiggo is a Brit mod through and through. His hair says it all. I was just talking present day and Froome, who is “British”, sort of.

    2. Andy Shleck is down in history as having won the 2010 Tour de France, so it would be hard for Pinot to be one step higher on the podium in Paris.

    I don’t think Schleck considers himself the winner of that Tour.

    3. As @Teocalli has pointed out, Pinot was less than sanguine when things went wrong. I think Bardet handles crises far better from what we’ve seen so far of them both.

    Other than that, great article! I’d go with Bardet as the “Great Hope” myself, although think Gallopin has more to offer than his eventual Tour collapse showed…

    I’m all in for Bardet. I’m not sure he is a Grand Tour contender but he seems a very complete cyclist and exudes panache. And he fucking goes downhill like a rocket.

  12. @Teocalli

    @wiscot

    I think I’ll go with Pinot but it’s a tough call. I was very impressed by the way that Pinot kept his cool after the big crash on stage 3 and he lost a lot of time, I thought he was going to get all huffy and whiny. He didn’t. He kept the heid and rode hard for the rest of the race. Chapeau.

    Err you did watch stage 4 or is there a typo above?

    Pinot got all huffy and whiny on the cobbles, right in front of the camera. I guess he was seeing his GC slip off into the ditch about then. A beautiful French meltdown.

  13. @ped

    They are both capable, but will never do it with a French team, I’ve never seen either name linked to a team with the budget it seems you need to win a GT.

    And surely Tony Gallopin is the most exciting French rider…. if only a tour lasted 2weeks

    Bardet and Pinot are due some credit for winning stages 18 and 20, in the third week. TeeJay was gold for two weeks too, if you call sitting on wheels for two weeks gold. And Tony G was a beast in the spring too. Considering I wouldn’t make the time cut in the prologue, it’s amazing anyone makes it to the third week of the Tour. Genetic freaks.

  14. Never mind that. You actually like the AG2R kit?? It’s got brown on it, end of story. May The Prophet have Mercy

  15. I was under the impression that AS is from Luxembourg rather than France. Is there a distinction in cycling?

  16. @nobby

    Yes, he’s a Luxembourgeezer for sure, but I don’t think Gianni was saying he was French, was he?

  17. @Oli

    @nobby

    Yes, he’s a Luxembourgeezer for sure, but I don’t think Gianni was saying he was French, was he?

    Probably not, but didn’t want AS coming on here moaning, you know how he gets

  18. @Gianni

    @Teocalli

    @wiscot

    I think I’ll go with Pinot but it’s a tough call. I was very impressed by the way that Pinot kept his cool after the big crash on stage 3 and he lost a lot of time, I thought he was going to get all huffy and whiny. He didn’t. He kept the heid and rode hard for the rest of the race. Chapeau.

    Err you did watch stage 4 or is there a typo above?

    Pinot got all huffy and whiny on the cobbles, right in front of the camera. I guess he was seeing his GC slip off into the ditch about then. A beautiful French meltdown.

    Ok, I should clarify. He understandably got all huffy on the day (who wouldn’t?), but he didn’t quit (literally or metaphorically) and knuckled down and rode hard for the rest of the Tour. To me that shows some strength of character. Barguil is exciting too – so long as he stays away from Geraint!

  19. Doping is a criminal offence in France – added incentive for Les Coureurs Francais to ride clean, n’est-ce pas? So I really hope to see a Frenchman win again soon: Barguil Pinot, Bardet or some one else.

  20. @Brendan O’Donoghue

    Doping is a criminal offence in France – added incentive for Les Coureurs Francais to ride clean, n’est-ce pas? So I really hope to see a Frenchman win again soon: Barguil Pinot, Bardet or some one else.

    Murder is a criminal offense here in the states (unless you work in law enforcement) and still there is quite a lot of it that happens.

  21. @wiscot

    I think I’ll go with Pinot but it’s a tough call. I was very impressed by the way that Pinot kept his cool after the big crash on stage 3 and he lost a lot of time, I thought he was going to get all huffy and whiny. He didn’t. He kept the heid and rode hard for the rest of the race. Chapeau.

    I’m with you; his temper tantrum on the cobbles looked the end of his Tour, but he kept at it.

    @Gianni

    It is ballsy of Pinot to race in white shorts; if either of them should wear brown shorts its him, if you take my meaning.

  22. @nobby

    I was under the impression that AS is from Luxembourg rather than France. Is there a distinction in cycling?

    I was not saying he was French. I was saying he was a shit descender and time trialist and still either won the Tour or got second place. Mostly, he bugs me as a rider who squandered his natural talent and was too lazy to work on his weaknesses. At least Pinot worked hard and is somewhat successful at fixing his descending problem.

    And in the middle of the night I worried I was too hard on TeeJay.

  23. @frank

    @Brendan O’Donoghue

    Doping is a criminal offence in France – added incentive for Les Coureurs Francais to ride clean, n’est-ce pas? So I really hope to see a Frenchman win again soon: Barguil Pinot, Bardet or some one else.

    Murder is a criminal offense here in the states (unless you work in law enforcement) and still there is quite a lot of it that happens.

    Ouch… Touché, though. Sadly.

  24. I think I have a problem with any pro cyclist who descends like a pussy (Pinot), possibly because most pro cyclists I admire descended like complete crazy-arses (Kelly, Yates, Merckx, LeMond, Hinault), so I think for that reason I’d have to go for Bardet.

    Funny you mention Hinault and Fignon too, I’ve been contemplating the Badger a lot. I found an old article where someone had posted a video of Hinault winning Paris Roubaix by riding to the front at the Velodrome and tearing everyone’s legs off. In the bands. Fucking legend.

  25. @wilburrox

    AG2R… sort of like their kit? Hmmmm. Brown shorts? And the other cat in white shorts? All very suspect.

    It’s the two Lotto teams that have it right. At least on the bottom half. But dang, the yellow and black Jumbo jerseys w/lotto balls on top of the perfect celeste bikes just doesn’t get it. I swear that the new Specialissima is certainly in the top five of good looking modern C bikes.

    Cheers for the weekend

    At least AG2R matches their beautiful Focus bikes to their kit. That Dutch yellow kit and celeste is fucked up. What is wrong with them? The Dutch, fuggetaboutit.

    Yeah, the brown shorts of AG2R are wrong on a few levels. I’m in psychotherapy right now trying to get to the bottom of why I don’t find it more offensive.

  26. @RobSandy

    I think I have a problem with any pro cyclist who descends like a pussy (Pinot), possibly because most pro cyclists I admire descended like complete crazy-arses (Kelly, Yates, Merckx, LeMond, Hinault), so I think for that reason I’d have to go for Bardet.

    Funny you mention Hinault and Fignon too, I’ve been contemplating the Badger a lot. I found an old article where someone had posted a video of Hinault winning Paris Roubaix by riding to the front at the Velodrome and tearing everyone’s legs off. In the bands. Fucking legend.

    Watching Bardet in both the Criterium du Dauphine and stage 18 of the Tour, mofo is fearless descendeur. Sagan has nothing on him for ass hauling on descents. Did you see Pinot catching his pedal? As Bob Roll pointed out, it’s something one does when one is 14, crashes, and never does it again.

    The Badger was a real piece of work. He became the the patron of the peloton in his first Tour!? Holy Alpha Male, batman.

  27. Doesn’t someone from the UK want to call me out for implying Froome is not a British rider? What does it take to get an argument going these days.

    OK, truth be told, my heart is not really in that issue. OK, here are a few other topics.

    Schleck brothers, both dopers, yes or no.

    Fucking Tom Danielson, he is heading into Floyd Landis territory, where even on the windswept steppes of Mongolia, where now, when Danielson’s name comes up around the fire. They all shake their heads and quietly agree, “what a tool.”

  28. @Gianni

    @nobby

    I was under the impression that AS is from Luxembourg rather than France. Is there a distinction in cycling?

    I was not saying he was French. I was saying he was a shit descender and time trialist and still either won the Tour or got second place. Mostly, he bugs me as a rider who squandered his natural talent and was too lazy to work on his weaknesses. At least Pinot worked hard and is somewhat successful at fixing his descending problem.

    And in the middle of the night I worried I was too hard on TeeJay.

    You may have been too hard on TeeJay, but to be fair his name is “TeeJay”. Also, Andy and Fränk both proudly proclaimed to work on their strengths, not their weaknesses. Which is exactly opposite of what any strategically-minded individual would say, unless they were trying to fool their competition. In which case it would be genius, but obviously it wasn’t.

    Pinot worked hard, but still sucks. I love the way that English dude crushed those two Frenchmen in the descent into the speedway, saying, “I knew Pinot would be cautious in the corners, so I just went for it.”

    Stud.

  29. @Gianni

    @wilburrox

    AG2R… sort of like their kit? Hmmmm. Brown shorts? And the other cat in white shorts? All very suspect.

    It’s the two Lotto teams that have it right. At least on the bottom half. But dang, the yellow and black Jumbo jerseys w/lotto balls on top of the perfect celeste bikes just doesn’t get it. I swear that the new Specialissima is certainly in the top five of good looking modern C bikes.

    Cheers for the weekend

    At least AG2R matches their beautiful Focus bikes to their kit. That Dutch yellow kit and celeste is fucked up. What is wrong with them? The Dutch, fuggetaboutit.

    Easy, cowboy. It’s Bianchi that has lost their way, not Lotto-Yumbo. That is a class kit, the Bianchi’s today are curvy fucking abominations.

    This is good Bianchi, complete with Yellow.

    Yeah, the brown shorts of AG2R are wrong on a few levels. I’m in psychotherapy right now trying to get to the bottom of why I don’t find it more offensive.

    (*pssst* I kind of like that kit too. Don’t tell anyone, OK?)

  30. @frank

    @Gianni

    @wilburrox

    AG2R… sort of like their kit? Hmmmm. Brown shorts? And the other cat in white shorts? All very suspect.

    It’s the two Lotto teams that have it right. At least on the bottom half. But dang, the yellow and black Jumbo jerseys w/lotto balls on top of the perfect celeste bikes just doesn’t get it. I swear that the new Specialissima is certainly in the top five of good looking modern C bikes.

    Cheers for the weekend

    At least AG2R matches their beautiful Focus bikes to their kit. That Dutch yellow kit and celeste is fucked up. What is wrong with them? The Dutch, fuggetaboutit.

    Easy, cowboy. It’s Bianchi that has lost their way, not Lotto-Yumbo. That is a class kit, the Bianchi’s today are curvy fucking abominations.

    This is good Bianchi, complete with Yellow.

    Yeah, the brown shorts of AG2R are wrong on a few levels. I’m in psychotherapy right now trying to get to the bottom of why I don’t find it more offensive.

    (*pssst* I kind of like that kit too. Don’t tell anyone, OK?)

    I also admire the AG2R kit. Very classy in a peloton with so many unmemorable kits. FDJ would have a great kit if they’d just switch the white shorts for blue ones. Or black even. Anything but white. Both teams ride very nice bikes. Jens gave them a nice wrap at some point in Stage 20 when P/P hung some shit on them – possibly about their kit. Jens admitted to liking the kit and referred to the team as “a band of brothers”. Seeing them get both Bardet and Peraud up there last year and seeing Peraud ride for Bardet this year, I agree.

    Which brings me to Bianchi – I differ, Frank. I like the Oltre and modern Bianchi’s. I like that they (like Pinarello) don’t have an overtly aero model. Although they have just released a climbing model I think.

    Possibly the only reason they didn’t win this year is that I cursed them with my VSP selection. This definitely resulted in the schooling in how to win races which Steve Cummins handed to them.

  31. curvy abomination?? yowza!

  32. @Gianni

    Doesn’t someone from the UK want to call me out for implying Froome is not a British rider? What does it take to get an argument going these days.

    This is Froome’s problem.

    Reactions to him even in the UK are mostly indifference, beating out antipathy because of the him v Wiggo thing. If you like(d) Wiggins how can you like Froome, the thinking goes. And his bitchy girlfriend doesn’t help either.

    Third is probably a grudging respect, which is sort of where I am.

    And actually liking him is a distant last place.

    He won’t win the BBC Sports Personality award ever. Certainly not this year after they won some game called cricket (not sure, never heard of it before). He could win five Tours and he still won’t get it.

  33. @wilburrox

    Ooosh! I would love a Specialissima. If only I wasn’t a. poor as fuck and b. heavy as fuck. Fuck.

  34. @ChrisO

    He won’t win the BBC Sports Personality award ever. Certainly not this year after they won some game called cricket (not sure, never heard of it before). He could win five Tours and he still won’t get it.

    That’s very insensitive. I’m sure there are some Australians around these parts who are probably in deep depression at the moment.

    I would agree that Froome isn’t much a ‘personality’ in the traditional sense, but he does seem to have all the character traits you need to race Grand Tours (stubbornness and complete single minded determination) in spades. And the not British thing…well it looked even weirder when he was racing for Kenya.

  35. @RobSandy

    @ChrisO

    He won’t win the BBC Sports Personality award ever. Certainly not this year after they won some game called cricket (not sure, never heard of it before). He could win five Tours and he still won’t get it.

    That’s very insensitive. I’m sure there are some Australians around these parts who are probably in deep depression at the moment.

    I would agree that Froome isn’t much a ‘personality’ in the traditional sense, but he does seem to have all the character traits you need to race Grand Tours (stubbornness and complete single minded determination) in spades. And the not British thing…well it looked even weirder when he was racing for Kenya.

    Why do people always think I’m English? Should I say “Strewth stone the crows digger, no worries, she’ll be right” and drop casually racist comments into my posts so people know I’m Australian?

    At least we don’t have to put up with any shit from bandwagon-jumping Kiwis today. Shame I can’t give a toss about Rugby, or at least the Union variety.

  36. @Gianni

    Doesn’t someone from the UK want to call me out for implying Froome is not a British rider? What does it take to get an argument going these days.

    OK, truth be told, my heart is not really in that issue. OK, here are a few other topics.

    Schleck brothers, both dopers, yes or no.

    Fucking Tom Danielson, he is heading into Floyd Landis territory, where even on the windswept steppes of Mongolia, where now, when Danielson’s name comes up around the fire. They all shake their heads and quietly agree, “what a tool.”

    We are too busy celebrating stuffing the Ozzies and regaining the Ashes. Try in a week.

  37. @wiscot

    Ok, I should clarify. He understandably got all huffy on the day (who wouldn’t?), but he didn’t quit (literally or metaphorically) and knuckled down and rode hard for the rest of the Tour. To me that shows some strength of character. Barguil is exciting too – so long as he stays away from Geraint!

    Still not convinced. Contador in a similar situation on a later stage simply got on a team mate’s bike and got on with it and back into the yellow jersey group. Hopefully he will have learned from the experience.

    You could argue (in all the wrong ways) that Barguil was especially exiting when he got close to GT.

  38. Sorry Gianni, forgot to answer your question. My pick is Bardet by a badgers whisker. Pinot is a great rider but somehow Bardet is more complete. Peloton did a nice feature on him pre-Tour and he’s certainly got a balanced approach. I like his team more too. FDJ giving millions to Bouhanni is idiotic.

  39. @PT

    It is not the color of the bike – Bianchi and so many others have lost their souls to carbon! Give me sleek modern steel construction for that true two wheel zen.

  40. And yellow on celeste is as inexcusable today as it was in 1998. I don’t care if Pantani rode it, it’s just not right.

  41. @Oli

    We’re very far apart on this!

  42. @Gianni

    Doesn’t someone from the UK want to call me out for implying Froome is not a British rider? What does it take to get an argument going these days.

    OK, truth be told, my heart is not really in that issue. OK, here are a few other topics.

    Schleck brothers, both dopers, yes or no.

    Fucking Tom Danielson, he is heading into Floyd Landis territory, where even on the windswept steppes of Mongolia, where now, when Danielson’s name comes up around the fire. They all shake their heads and quietly agree, “what a tool.”

    In the last year I’ve picked up a house and a 9-5 job. I find myself provoking arguments with people much less often than I have all of my life. Am I getting old? Contented? Bored? I’m trying to take it as it comes, but I find myself much less motivated to yell at people. It feels wrong.

    RE: Danielson. Allow us to recall that fuckface Vaughters said he’d fire THE ENTIRE SQUAD if anyone tested positive. Let us await Tom’s B sample and see what the bespectacled dork does. Gonna be rough if Dombrowski gets fired a week after that win…

  43. @frank

    Yes, that’s because you’re delusional.

  44. @Oli

    @frank

    Yes, that’s because you’re delusional.

    No, no, no…in this particular example, you’re the crazy cunt chasing the teddy bear up a fence. Sorry if that was confusing for you.

  45. @Gianni

    Doesn’t someone from the UK want to call me out for implying Froome is not a British rider? What does it take to get an argument going these days.

    Because he is clearly African, not British. He was born in Kenya, raised and educated in ZA, and only took a Pommy passport specifically for the betterment of his Cycling career.

  46. Speaking of sub par descending, anyone seen the footage of Matt Brammeier’s crash at the Tour of Utah on the weekend?

    Think Barguil vs GT, except Brammeier was going way faster & decided to use a support car as his stopping mechanism instead of a fellow rider…ouch!

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