Arnaud Démare and his mates’ first attempt did not prove to be the right one this Sunday, in stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana. Although the Groupama-FDJ cycling team remained in front the whole day, the final sprint did not go as expected and the former French champion did not even have the opportunity to fight for victory. Before the next opportunity scheduled for Tuesday, the riders will face the first summit finish of the race tomorrow at Picón Blanco.

“We wanted to take the race in our own hands, and we did”, Thierry Bricaud

In the aftermath of the opening time trial in the streets of Burgos, the Vuelta a Espana resumed on Sunday towards… Burgos. The city was indeed a finish for stage 2 as well, but completely different riders were expected today. With no real obstacles featuring on the route, the sprinters were set to have their first shot after 166 kilometres of racing. This is why Groupama-FDJ immediately took the lead when a trio (Diego Rubio, Sergio, Romain Martin and Xabier Mikel Azparren) broke away in the first minutes of racing. “We wanted to take control of the race and make sure to bring Arnaud to the sprint,” said Thierry Bricaud. “There aren’t so many chances on this Vuelta, so when there is, we have to take our chances. We wanted to take the race in our own hands, and we did. There was no real danger but Roupette [Anthony Roux] was the first one to pull, then Tobias took over.” With the participation of Deceuninck-Quick Step in the chase, the breakaway was always within range. In the second half of the race, the gap further reduced as the tension started to rise. “The wind forecasted this morning was not the same as the actual one in the race,” added Thierry Bricaud. “It made the race less nervous than we could have imagined, but it was still tense. With these open roads, everyone wants to be in a good position”.

The whole team actually remained up front around their sprinter until the last five kilometers, and then things got a little more complicated. “Those who had to ride in the sprint approach did well,” said Thierry. “Everyone tried to put Arnaud in the best conditions today”. Still, the Frenchman and his lead-out men did not manage to find their way through in the crucial moments. “Everyone was fresh in the final and it was a bit of chaos,” said Ramon Sinkeldam. “We were just next to the crash that happened with 4k to go, and we lost a bit of our momentum to move up. When it goes that fast, it’s hard to get back in front”. “We had an opportunity to move up at one point, but we didn’t take advantage of it,” added Jacopo. “We stayed slightly behind and got caught in some waves. Moreover, we touched some other riders in the last kilometre, we lost speed and our sprint was almost over by then”. Although it was about to get back on the right track under the red flame, the Groupama-FDJ train eventually went off the rails. Arnaud Démare did try to reposition himself, but it was too late. He was therefore unable to really take part in the sprint, placing fourteenth on the line. “We got boxed in twice, once with 2k to go, the other at 800m, and we almost crashed against one another with Jacopo. It was a bit strange,” said the former French champion.

“We must do better”, Jacopo Guarnieri

“It’s not about habits, the guys know each other,” said Thierry Bricaud. “We probably need to really go for it and think a bit less. It’s still better to miss out while taking the reins than to not be able to sprint like it happened today. We may have waited too long. Let’s also not forget that we’re facing a real competition. When you’re caught in the middle of the bunch and that it goes so fast, it’s almost too late. We missed this sprint, but there are two more this week. We’ll try to show what we can do”. “We made mistakes but we will have to analyse what did not work in order to do better in the next few days,” agreed Jacopo. “We’re in good shape, but we still have to take advantage of these opportunities. Of course, we didn’t come for that, we have to do better!” The next opportunity should come on Tuesday to Molina de Aragón. Before that, the usual Vuelta a Burgos’ summit finish at Picón Blanco is on the menu tomorrow. “It should be a fight between the main leaders, but a breakaway might also have its chances,” concluded Thierry Bricaud.

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