On paper, stage 13 of the Giro did not really favour Arnaud Démare. However, the French champion and his teammates showed real fighting spirit in the finale to try to keep their chances open, especially against Peter Sagan. Eventually, Diego Ulissi won from the group of favourites, as the French champion retained, and even strengthened, his cyclamen jersey prior to a very tough week.
“We expected this scenario”, Arnaud Démare
Very plat, but not quite. That’s what the route of the Giro d’Italia’s stage 13 looked like on Friday, over 192 kilometers from Cervia to Monselice. “A special day”, actually said Sébastien Joly, given that the first 150 kilometers were completely flat with a headwind, while the last 35 featured two very steep climbs made for a very lively finale. Due to these climbs, the cyclamen jersey wearer could not be named as one of the favourites today, but the runner-up in the points classification Peter Sagan was. “There were two options, explained Sébastien. Either a big breakaway would go and pick up all the points at the finish, which was ideal for us. Either Bora-hansgrohe would pull for Sagan, which is what we actually thought would happen. We also imagined that Israel would participate in the chase for Cimolai. The second option was indeed the good one”. The three-time world champion’s teammates straight away controlled the day’s breakaway, which went from the start and included seven riders. “On the flat, and with the headwind, it’s sometimes easy to lose focus,” Sébastien said, “but everyone got back in race mode really well halfway through the stage. The fact that they competed in the intermediate sprint also gave them a good boost. They were able to get back into the game at the right time, as the final approached.”
An hour passed between the intermediate sprint where Arnaud Démare grabbed the remaining point and the first climb of the day in Roccolo (4.3km at 8%). “The plan was then to hang on as much as possible and to manage in the same way as we did in the Tour de Wallonie,” Sébastien explained. “We had to keep as many guys as possible around Arnaud and they managed to do that perfectly in the first hill. Kono and Kilian in particular did a great job. They really did what was expected from them. We have to pay tribute to their work, but the others did also prove efficient with positioning beforehand”. After a frantic pursuit of around ten kilometers, both in the downhill and on the flat, the French champion was brought back to the first peloton a few hundred meters from the second climb of the day, in Calaone (2km at 10%). “The fight among GC contenders started, and it was eventually good for us,” said Sébastien. “If the pace had been a little less fast, Sagan could have held the wheels. This time, he could not”. “We knew he was going to climb better than me and that he was able to get over that hill with the leading group to go for the sprint,” said Arnaud at the finish. “It went up very, very fast. As far as we’re concerned, we fought as best we could, but we expected this scenario.” The scenario, however, undoubtedly turned out to be more breath-taking than expected. In the last fifteen kilometers, an intense fight took place between the favourites, Sagan and Arnaud Démare’s groups. It all ended up with a ‘status quo’ and Diego Ulissi’s victory in the front.
“We can also feel the group’s solidarity in tougher stages”, Sébastien Joly
Since the members of the pink jersey group took the first fifteen places on the line, Peter Sagan was unable to score any points and therefore did not gain ground in the cyclamen jersey fight. “Today’s situation is favourable to me,” confessed Arnaud Démare. “This stage ends with a draw”. “It’s even better than that since we took a point during the stage,” Sébastien said. “It’s not much, but at the end of the day, the stage’s outcome is +1 point. It rather is a good outcome.” Arnaud Démare now leads the ranking by thirty-seven points on his Slovakian rival as the next scheduled sprint is only expected next Friday. Until then, the riders will compete in a 34-kilometer time trial tomorrow and then go on to a series of mountainous and hilly stages. “Miles [Scotson] suffers a bit from his back and will probably take it quite easy in the time trial, said Sébastien. Then, it will also be about managing our efforts well in the mountains. We also thought of giving Kilian and Simon a little freedom, but we’ll discuss that as we advance. Primarily, it will be about managing. When it is possible, we keep the two cars with the gruppetto. This allows us to be able to assist them as well as possible. Yesterday, we again felt the group’s solidarity. We feel it when we win, but also when it comes to sticking together, staying together and keeping morale up on tougher stages. We know what awaits us, we know it won’t be easy, but we also know that there could be a really nice outcome at the end”.