Groupama-FDJ expected a lot from stage 13 of La Vuelta towards Villanueva de la Serena. Unfortunately, the mass sprint did not prove to be as clear as they hoped after 200 kilometres of racing. Arnaud Démare was caught behind the splits that occurred in the last three kilometres and therefore did not take part in the sprint for victory, which was a very special one on Friday. The riders are now heading to a mountainous weekend before the second rest day.

Some could fear another furious start on Friday from Belmez, despite a flat and straight terrain towards Villanueva de la Serena. It eventually did not happen. The day’s breakaway went clear almost immediately, including Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH), Alvaro Cuadros (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Luis Angel Mate (Euskaltel-Euskadi), which gave the bunch a bit of a break after three crazy days. However, the sprinters’ teams quickly got to the top positions in order to prevent the gap from increasing too much. The trio only got a two minute-lead before it got controlled, with Groupama-FDJ taking its part in the chase. “We were all-in for the sprint today, so we planned things to make it go as well as possible,” explained Thierry Bricaud. “It went well at first, and Tobias controlled the break all day. It was certainly not very dangerous, but the stage was still 200 kilometres long”. The peloton played with the leaders the whole day, but still got very nervous with sixty kilometres to go when a handful of Belgians made a bold attempt. Everything eventually went back to normal, the gap dropped to thirty seconds, but the break was only caught with 28 kilometres remaning. From then on, the pace gradually increased in the pack and the real fight as they entered the last ten kilometres.

“We were a bit late and we paid for it”, Thierry Bricaud

The Groupama-FDJ lead-out train first positioned itself perfectly, seven kilometres from the line. However, it got outflanked two kilometres later and never managed to get back in the front positions. “We did not ride well in the final,” said Thierry Bricaud. “As a team, we simply lacked aggressiveness. We knew we had to be there with five kilometres to go, when Deceuninck-Quick Step took over. We were a bit late and we paid for it. At that speed, it is then almost impossible to move back up. It was going really fast in front, they were coming out of turns and roundabouts with a two meter-advantage, and that caused some splits. We reacted too late and could not make up for it. At 60 km/h, the slightest mistake is unforgivable”. The bunch indeed broke many times in the final, so much so that only two riders really competed in the sprint: Florian Sénéchal and Matteo Trentin. In this quite hectic race, the victory went to the Frenchman as Arnaud Démare crossed the line eleven seconds later. “It’s disappointing because we don’t have a lot of sprint opportunities left, and it was one today,” added Thierry. “We should at least be able to offer a sprint to Arnaud. Whether he wins or gets beaten afterwards is another thing, but he should at least be able to sprint, which he hasn’t been today. We still hope to have an opportunity by the end of the Vuelta, but it will not be easy”.

Before looking forward to this potential last chance, in week three, the riders will first have to conclude this week with two mountain stages. “These will be hard stages but we also know that breakaways can make it to the end”, concluded Thierry. “Rudy is going well. We hope he can enter a good breakaway, then anything is possible. We still have ambitions on this Vuelta”.

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