The 9th stage of the Tour de France arrives this Sunday in Brioude, Haute-Loire. It is here, south of Clermont-Ferrand, that AG2R rider Romain Bardet grew up. A place he cherishes, in the heart of a region that has shaped it.
There, a good fifty kilometers from Clermont-Ferrand, on the road to Puy-en-Velay, it is nicknamed "Sweet Brioude". The Allier crosses nicely. The climate, it seems, is very mild. And the typical highlands of Auvergne bordering the city, in a verdant, almost desert-like setting, give it a peaceful, almost protected environment.
If the tranquility of this town of about 6,000 inhabitants will be jostled, this Sunday, when the big barnum of the Tour will arrive, it is in this preserved environment that grew up Romain Bardet, the leader of AG2R-La Mondiale. Until his departure for Chambéry in 2010, to integrate the training structure of AG2R. In the middle of this green environment in the center of France, it was built. Forging his love of open spaces, adventure, and developing together his potential as a cyclist, on a terrain conducive to climbing.
The 28-year-old climber now resides in Clermont-Ferrand, but remains very attached to the sub-prefecture of Haute-Loire. Year-round, he often returns to Brioude, where his parents live, and where he continues to be fired (VS Brivadois). "It's two hours from home on my bike. When in the morning I see that it's nice on Brioude, I do not hesitate … " Romain Bardet, a big supporter of the ASM in rugby, is in love with his region. Auvergne, and not the new whole encompassing the Rhône-Alpes. Historically, his family has its roots in Cantal. His father is a teacher, his mother is a nurse. He has a sister, six years younger. "Brioude is the city where I am rooted, he says today. My first spin, I made them at the covered market on Wednesday … "
If we take the thread of his story, Romain Bardet was a rather wise child. He tried different sports, loved football, but ended up cracking at age 9 for cycling, the sport his father practiced (read below). On his two-wheelers, as in each of the activities he did, Romain Bardet was no longer quite the same. "I was competitive. I was rude. My teachers of EPS should not have a great memory of me today … "
This is confirmed by those who met him in his early days in cycling. "He was already different on and off the bike,loose Georges Vidal, president of VS Brivadois. In life, he is posed, calm. But in compet ', he was a tough guy, a stubborn one … " "He had to break his leg so that he could stop pedaling" adds Gérard Cabantous, another leader of the first club of Bardet. "Let him sell, let it rain, he would go out… And make a distance that he was forbidden to do! "Georges Vidal continues, teasing: "One day, we took the kids to see Laurent Jalabert at about thirty terminals from here. The young people were told that they would be brought back by car. But there is one who came back by bike, it's Roman … He was always more! "
"Here, there is no pretense"
During his early years, Romain Bardet did not shine particularly. "But from late mini-cadets, it was gone …", says Georges Vidal. At that time, Auvergnat was a fan of … David Moncoutié, double stage winner on the Tour, renowned for his refusal to cheat. "He made me keep faith in this environment in the dark years …" , slips Bardet.
Romain Bardet is a conviction runner. All facets of his personality – thoughtful, environmentally friendly, sensitive to nature, biodiversity issues – he developed them in this corner of the Massif Central. "Here, I have built myself as a man by finding values that correspond to me. In Brioude, there is no pretense. I was quickly connected to the environment. " Teen, that's one of the reasons that led him to devote himself exclusively to cycling. "Escape attracted me. I could not have put the same involvement in an indoor sport. "
These little mountains, Romain Bardet knows them by heart. These are the roads, younger, which allowed him to progress, develop his climbing skills. Today more than ever, he borrows them all seasons, repeating the efforts, methodically, in his own way, to continue his ascent. Sometimes in winter, he exiles in the South, to Nice, where he has a pied-à-terre to enjoy better conditions and some passes nearby. But its oxygen, the climber draws it in his land. "My balance is here. I could not live elsewhere. "
In Auvergne, he hunts (inheritance of his grandfather), strolls. And get resources. "I like to smell, to see the first buds coming in … There's nothing like going to the mushrooms in the area, fishing in the Allier. I have the chance, in addition, to be climber, so to discover while climbing new landscapes, new ecosystems. "He even slips a little advice to the people of the West: "When you want to go down to the South, stop there, it's halfway away … There's the Chaîne des Puys just next door, Cantal, the plain of Limagne … It's beautiful! "
In the city, also that of the best rugbywoman in the world Jessy Trémoulière, Romain Bardet can measure its popularity. At the club, there were only three licensees in 2000. They are now 107! "It's crazy the Bardet effect, enthuses Georges Vidal. Especially since he remains very present. He gives us bicycles, outfits, he makes outings with young people. They all have the AG2R jersey here! There is even a kid who wanted to paint his room in blue and brown, the colors of his team! "
Will we see it on the front this Sunday? It was not too much planned, originally. But the unfolding of this early Tour could prompt Bardet to change his plans. Brioude, who welcomes for the second time the Tour (after a start of stage in 2008), would not be against. Whatever happens, the city prepares, on this National Day, to pay homage to him for a native child who returns to a hero. And who knows, one day, his two club presidents say it: "If he wins the Tour, we have already planned to repaint the town hall in yellow! ".
++ The profile of the 9th stage of the Tour de France 2019
Tour de France. 9th stage: Romain Bardet, the child of BrioudeOuest-France.fr