AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet will race at the Tour Down Under for the first time in his career next week, and says that he's raring to go having not raced since the Tour de France in late July, where he finished as the race's 'king of the mountains'.
"I've been in Australia since December 28 with [AG2R teammates] Clément Chevrier, Axel Domont and Larry Warbasse, where we've been able to acclimatise to the summer conditions and even heatwaves," said Bardet on his team's website. "I'm happy to be here to discover the Tour Down Under, which is a popular event that's eagerly awaited here, despite the environmental disaster that's affecting Australia today.
"We've seen some of the devastation in various places around Adelaide," he said of the huge bushfires that have affected, and continue to affect, the states of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, in particular. "I hope that the race will be an additional lever in the solidarity movement emerging all around the globe to help the regions stricken by fire.
"I haven't taken part in a race since July 28, when the Tour de France finished on the Champs Elysées," said Bardet, who finished the race in what was, by his standards, a disappointing 15th overall, despite taking the polka-dot jersey.
"I've been preparing for many months for the start of the 2020 season, and have mixed it up a bit by riding track and doing some cyclo-cross, which has helped in getting me out of my traditional winter pattern," he revealed.
"I've never before returned to racing so early in the year, but I think that these are the ideal conditions for a calm start to a great 2020 season, progressing day-by-day on the short but hilly stages," he said.
AG2R La Mondiale for the 2020 Tour Down Under: Romain Bardet, Geoffrey Bouchard, Clément Chevrier, Axel Domont, Ben Gastauer, Andrea Vendrame, Larry Warbasse