French presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal went back to the campaign trail on Monday as they battled for votes from the undecided centre ground that will be key to their May 6 runoff.
Sunday's first round ballot set up a classic race between left and right in France after Sarkozy, the conservative former interior minister, scored a resounding win with 31.2% against 25.9% for the Socialist candidate Royal.
Polls give Sarkozy an edge before the decisive second round, with 52-54% support against 46-48% for Royal.
But the result had both candidates eyeing supporters of centrist Francois Bayrou, who captured 18.6% of the vote after a dynamic campaign based on a pledge to sweep aside the ruling elite and overcome traditional political divides.
"Essentially the results will be dictated by the behaviour of his voters. They are the ones who will make a difference," Roland Cayrol, head of pollsters CSA told Le Parisien newspaper.
Bayrou, head of the small centre-right UDF party, has not given any endorsement and with polls suggesting his supporters could vote either way, spokesmen for the two candidates looked past the man himself to appeal directly to his voter base.
Socialist party leader Francois Hollande said Royal's team would not be beginning negotiations with Bayrou's camp but he said she would be appealing for as broad a majority as possible.
"There are men and women in Francois Bayrou's electorate who wanted change, who thought they would beat Sarkozy by voting Bayrou," he told France 2 television.