This time the train was right on track. In the final kilometres of stage 4 of the Vuelta, the whole team managed to put Arnaud Démare in the best possible conditions for the slightly uphill sprint in Molina de Aragon. The former French champion then thought he was about to finish it off, but Fabio Jakobsen eventually overtook him in the final meters. Revenge is anticipated on Wednesday.
“I could see myself winning”, Arnaud Démare
Although the profile was not completely flat, stage 4 of the Vuelta still suited the sprinters very much. As a consequence, only three men took the lead in the very first kilometre of racing on Tuesday. Carlos Canal, Angel Madrazo (Burgos BH) and Joan Bou (Euskaltel-Euskadi) could then escape without really fighting for it. After an hour of racing, the gap eventually got maintained at four minutes or so with the red jersey’s team controlling. The sprinters’ squads only came a bit later, around halfway through the race, to contribute to the chase as well. Tobias Ludvigsson then made his way into the top positions to lead Groupama-FDJ and the gap with the breakaway already dropped back to one minute with sixty kilometers to go. The bunch calmed down for an hour but tension escalated again twenty kilometres from the finish. The leading trio was soon caught while the GC teams and the sprinters’ teams fought for the first positions. Anthony Roux kept his teammates in the front before the lead-out train would put itself on track inside the final three kilometres behind Kevin Geniets, Rudy Molard and Olivier Le Gac. “I had to make the train go over the small climb (at two kilometres, editor’s note) in the best possible position”, said Olivier Le Gac. “Everyone had his role, and although there was some fighting up there, we managed to stay more or less together and found each other again. We had very good communication. This is the main thing. I finished my turn 1500 meters from the line and let the specialists do their thing.”
In a perfect place behind Ramon Sinkeldam and Jacopo Guarnieri under the flamme rouge, Arnaud Démare told the rest: “We knew that this finish slightly uphill could suit me, and that I am capable of doing well on this kind of final. We managed it well. We had decided to take control, and we did. In the last sprint, we waited too much. We knew we had to start the downhill in the front. There were quite a few turns and we knew it would be very fast. I was in a good position and the guys did a great job. We launched the sprint like we wanted to”. After the turns of Ramon Sinkeldam and Jacopo Guarnieri in the last kilometre, the Frenchman started his sprint nearly 200 meters from the line. He stayed in the lead for 180 meters, but Fabio Jakobsen eventually took the victory away from him in the last moments. “I started my sprint strong, and I could see myself winning,” said Arnaud. “I couldn’t see anyone behind and then Jakobsen came very fast from the back. He was just stronger this time, so I don’t have too many regrets.” On the opposite, the former French champion was very positive at the end of the day: “We controlled well all day, the guys protected us from the wind to keep the train as fresh as possible. Everyone did a good job. Today, we also communicated much better, especially with the trajectories and to make sure that everyone was on the wheel. We knew what we wanted to do and we managed to execute it”.
“The team did a great job, that’s what we need to remember”, Franck Pineau
Olivier Le Gac also felt everything had been done properly on this fourth day of racing in Spain. “We did a great work, and we can be satisfied with that,” he said. “We are of course disappointed to be second but we cannot have any regrets. Now we just need to try again! We want to win. That’s why we’re here!” “It was almost perfect”, confirmed Franck Pineau. “However, we don’t get the win and only the win matters. The team did a great job today, that’s what we need to remember. There was just someone stronger. Even when the job is very well done, it’s still cycling. It just shows that it’s not easy to get a win. The guys meant business today, Nono is going strong and we have to believe in him. I think we have what we need to win. Also, when you’re showing what we showed today, it brings even more motivation. The set-up is good, the guys are riding well, and we must keep this momentum!” A more traditional sprint is actually anticipated in Albacete on Wednesday. A perfect opportunity for a rematch. “À bloc for tomorrow,” concluded Arnaud.