Romain Bardet praised the new generation of cyclists, and singled out Remco Evenepoela and Tadej Pogacar in the foreground. "They [the likes of Pogacar and Evenepoel] are bike geniuses. When they are at 100%, no one can compete, they race each other.
"They're not worried about us, the second wheels.
Everyone can see that the pace is higher than before. On the climbs, the pace is incredible." - he said for eurosport.com The teams are much stronger today and the competition is huge. Cycling has rapidly raised its quality in the past few years.
There are many cyclists in the game, and teams with big names. "The structuring of teams has changed the game. When you see the Jumbo [Visma] or UAE [Team Emirates] teams on the big tours, five or six of the eight guys could be leaders.
"For us, their direct opponents, it quickly gets difficult.
You have to try to keep a cool head and calibrate your forces to survive.
"It's always a bit difficult to compare but, yes, it [the level of elite cycling] is far superior [than in 2016-18].
"For me, I feel like there's a generation window that never arrived.
It was not empty words when I said in 2016 or 2017 that my best years were still ahead of me.
"The numbers are clear, I'm stronger than those years but there are even stronger young riders now.
"The top condition I'm in is not being seen in results.
Cycling has evolved very quickly over the past six years."
Bardet on his future
Bardet is an optimist for the next period and expects only the best from himself. He is a man with great qualities, now he only has to confirm it.
The most important thing for him is that he feels good and believes in himself. The results will come after that. "Physically I still want to take advantage of all my assets. I will be on the lookout for opportunities to put myself in the same situation as before the Giro this year.
"I'm not saying that my chances are numbered but, before the Giro, it's six months of work.
I need things like that in order to progress and be really good at what I'm doing.
"The structure will stay the same because I feel like I have the fundamentals to get there. I will target the Grand Tours according to the routes and my qualities."