Interview: One of the brightest young cycling talents to emerge last year was French climber, Warren Barguil. Two stage wins at the Vuelta in his debut season and in his first ever GrandTour says a lot. At the recent Argos-Shimano, now Giant-Shimano training camp we interviewed Warren about his incredible season, his future ambitions and more.
French cycling has been in a pit for quite some time, no Tour de France winners since Bernard Hinault in 1985 and no riders looking even likely to win. Now there is a young rider from Brittany, just like Hinault, who could return French pride, that rider is Warren Barguil. When Hinault was winning that Tour; Warren was waiting to be born six years later.
When Young Warren Barguil won two stages in the 2013 Vuelta a España you could have been forgiven for saying “Warren who?” But if you check-out his palmares, the 22 year old has not been waiting in the wings as he won the 2012 Tour de l’Avenir overall and for good measure he also took the points and mountains classifications at the same time. Gordan Cameron put Warren at the top of the Neo-Pros 2013: Report Card, so we just had to talk to him.
His (then) Argos-Shimano team were training on the Spanish Costa Blanca in early January, this was before the announcement of Giant stepping in to become the title sponsor and as you will read Warren was saying nothing.
PEZ: Why did you join Argos-Shimano and not a French team, like Cofidis or FDJ?
Warren Barguil: Because Argos contacted me in 2012, I had been a senior for one year already and so I discussed it with the directeur Sportif of the French National team and he said it would be a good choice to go to Argos and now I know I have made a good choice.
Kittel and Barguil trying the new kit
PEZ: Is it important for you go to a French team in the future?
Warren: No, no, it’s not important to go to a French team, I feel really good in this team, so why would I change team. I think it’s a really good team.
PEZ: Language isn’t a problem?
Warren: I had a big problem with English when I started, but now it’s OK.
PEZ: Has your life changed since your two stage wins in la Vuelta.
Warren: No, for me I don’t think my life has changed, when I ride at home more people say to me “hey, it’s good for you Warren to win in la Vuelta” but for me it’s no change. My phone rings more now, too much sometimes, but it’s OK, it’s my job.
PEZ: In your village do more the people know you now?
Warren: They knew me before the Vuelta because I live in Brittany; it’s a big cycling area. You might have heard of my village; Inzinzac, maybe you know the story; it’s where Eddy Merckx won his first French race.
PEZ: Do you feel Breton and French and do you speak Breton?
Warren: I’m Breton first, it’s separate but also French. But no I don’t speak Breton, when I was at school it was totally dead, now they teach it a little bit, to speak Breton.
PEZ: There used to be the Celtic Games with cycling.
Warren: Ah yes, but now there is the Kreiz Breizh Elites a 2.2 and it is joined to another race in Britain, it’s really good.
PEZ: You see yourself as a GC rider, so what is the next move for you?
Warren: Ah yes the next step. I have made the top twenty in a 8 or 9 day, but I crashed and didn’t make a good TTT. If it hadn’t been for that I would have been in the top ten, so now I must concentrate on this for a month.
PEZ: What about your solo time trial?
Warren: Sometimes it’s good, but that depends if I have good shape, when I was Under 23 I could do a good TT, I think if you have good form you can ride a good time trial.
PEZ: You won the Tour de l’Avenir, so you can do it.
Warren: It’s not the same!
PEZ: Will you ride the Tour de France this year?
Warren: We will discuss that with the team for the Tour this year, but if I don’t have good shape I will say to the team that I won’t go and give my place to someone with better form.
PEZ: Will you ride the Vuelta again?
Warren: Yes if I don’t ride the Tour I will ride the Vuelta, not both. I’m 22 so it’s too much. I prefer to ride the Classics around that time; San Sebastian which is a really good Classic and after the GP Plouay which is only 15 kilometres from my home.
PEZ: What about the Spring Classics?
Warren: I will make the Classics my first goal before the Tour, I should ride the three Classics, but maybe if I have good shape I will only ride two to make a good result, the first will be Amstel.
PEZ: What is your first race of the season, you don’t go to Australia or Argentina?
Warren: La Marseillaise in February, its early, but not Australia or Argentina. I stay here to the 10th then I go to the presentation of the Vuelta a España and then for the presentation of the team and then I am at home for four days. Back here (to Spain) for another training camp from 19th to 27th, after I return home for one day, then I go to the track for TT, to look at the position. It’s a long month, January, for me away from my girlfriend and family, but after I don’t have to go again for the TT and it’s really important to do now for progress later.
PEZ: And the rest of your season?
Warren: Yes, it should be La Marseillaise, Méditerranéen, the French Classic Sud Ardèche, then Italy for Strade Bianche and Roma Maxima, Catalunya, then Pais Vasco and maybe the Tour depending on if I have the legs.
PEZ: How important is the positioning and aerodynamics?
Warren: Very, we go to the track in Apeldoorn It’s a really good track and we do aerodynamics in Marché, I have already done wind tunnel tests, so I don’t think they will change more.
PEZ: Would you expect the position to change a lot?
Warren: It changed a lot last year, but it’s not difficult and if you train on the bike after then it’s OK; it’s no problem, I train on the TT bike also, so.
PEZ: That was something Armstrong started, everyone trains on the TT bike these days. What do you think of Armstrong or are you too young and you don’t care?
Warren: I don’t care, it’s difficult to speak about him, before I used to say he was a really shit guy, but he’s not the only guy and maybe he took more than the other guys, but we don’t know. But I think he has given a new development to cycling, maybe that’s the only positive point.
PEZ: He brought in a lot of money to the sport.
Warren: Yea but now it’s a bad story.
PEZ: How clean do you think the peloton is now?
Warren: It is really clean now. When I make a good result, I think I couldn’t have done that 10 years ago, it would have been completely impossible. Before in the Tour there were two pelotons, the normal peloton and the other peloton.
PEZ: Do you think they have made the Vuelta too hard now because there are so many summit finishes?
Warren: No, it’s not too hard now.
PEZ: Well, you would say that because you won two stages.
Warren: No, I don’t think this, I think it’s really good to have mountain stages, because the race totally changes with more attacks and also there is no control. I think it’s really good.
PEZ: But, for example, races like Milan-Sanremo are much harder now and no sprinter will win, do you think that’s a bad thing, not for you, but for cycling?
Warren: No, I think we still have too many sprinters races, there are still maybe 80 races for sprinters, maybe more, it’s not good for the public, they don’t like this because they say “you watch the race for two hours and nothing after its only a sprint”. You only need to read the result and not see the race. Now with a more difficult parcours and with the wind it’s really good for cycling. And we don’t just have one team, like US Postal who made maybe, in one stage, 10 minutes and then that was it, just one team. Now it’s not the same, it’s way better now.
PEZ: Maybe the sprinters wouldn’t agree with that. You hear of Cavendish saying he won’t go to Sanremo now, or he would look at the Vuelta profile and say there are only three stages for him, so he won’t ride.
Warren: Yea but now we have another kind of sprinter, like John (Degenkolb), he can climb really good and he can win the sprint. We have two kinds of sprinters, Marcel for the flat sprints and John for the up’s and down’s.
PEZ: You really enjoyed the Vuelta and you might ride the Tour this year, what about the Giro one day?
Warren: Yes one day, but it’s too early to say.
PEZ: What about your personal life, do you live at home with your parents and do you have a girlfriend?
Warren: I live with my girlfriend in my apartment and with my parents also, it’s really good and very important for me to see my family and my girlfriend, we were together for Christmas at home and then at New Year we went on a ski holiday with my family, that was a really good party.
PEZ: Has Bernard Hinault had any influence on your career?
Warren: I was on holiday with him in Curaçao (the Amstel Race), but I didn’t know him before as we don’t have time to speak during the race.
PEZ: You won’t remember anything of his racing, he retired in 1986 and you were born in 1991.
Warren: No I was too young; I have read about him, especially the story about the time he won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the snow. Also the director at the National team was Bernard Baroux who was a rider in Hinault’s team and he talks about the history of cycling. I stopped in a race with lots of snow and I was totally cold and I stopped and he said “oh, I remember when Hinault won in Liege he lost the feeling in his fingers.” That was crazy!
PEZ: OK, so who is the new team sponsor?
Warren: Ahhhh! No. I’m not going to say, it’s a big secret. I think it’s good, I think it’s really smart that we don’t give the sponsor name until the 13th of January, because now everyone asks the name and then when they reveal the new jersey; all the people will say; “ah we now know.” It’s like Christmas, all the people wait for the presents and this is the same.
PEZ: It’s not normal in cycling for someone not to say anything, or have it on Twitter.
Warren: But this is different and new.
PEZ: Are the podium girls at the Vuelta better than other podium girls?
Warren: I don’t know, I have a girlfriend and I’m very correct. Anyway when I was on the podium I was like a horse with the blinkers, I didn’t see anything!
Warren Barguil might not notice the podium girls, but he is getting noticed himself and is a rider with a big future ahead of him. Who knows? Maybe the next French Tour winner will be a Breton just like Bernard Hinault. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.