Stage 13 of the Giro offered quite a tremendous scenario towards Cuneo on Friday, and in the end, Arnaud Démare stormed to victory for the third time in this 105th edition. A four-man breakaway managed to resist the bunch for more than a hundred kilometres, and they only missed 500 meters to make it the winning move. However, thanks especially to his teammates’ huge work and an ideal lead-out, the Frenchman was able to sprint to another prestigious win and further strengthen his lead in the points classification.
“Of course, we doubted”, Sébastien Joly
“At the start of Sanremo this morning, there were already good vibes”. Six years after his first major success, on “La Primavera”, Arnaud Démare found himself in Ligurian city again on Friday. For once, however, the town hosted the start and not the finish of a cycling race since stage 13 of the Giro was set to end 150 kilometres further north in Cuneo. The profile, on the other hand, could just as well suit the French sprinter, as the only day’s obstacle was a climb of ten kilometres to be tackled after an hour of racing. “Above all, there was a back wind,” explained Sébastien Joly. “From the start, it was necessary for us to manage the breakaway. We could not let a ten-man group go, or we would have found ourselves in a difficult situation. Tobias did a big effort to come across a big move, and then the breakaway went. Three men got away, then two others, and we said: “Perfect, we let go”. The day’s fugitives, namely Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R-Citroën), Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Julius Van Den Berg (EF Education-Easy Post), Mirco Maestri (Eolo-Kometa), and Pascal Eenkhoorn ( Jumbo-Visma) later approached the climb with a 3’30 lead over a bunch already controlled by Clément Davy and other sprinters’ teams. “The trap was to find ourselves too close to the breakaway,” explained Sébastien. “If we had been three minutes away at the bottom, it could have given others some ideas, but we couldn’t be too far either. The problem is that Pascal Eenkhoorn, in the lead, made a big tempo in the climb and really increased the gap”.
At the top, with 95 kilometres to go, a whole new race started since the breakaway, then made of four men, saw its gap growing to 6’30. From then on, there was no more time to waste. “The good point is that there were interests for Israel-Premier Tech, Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl and us,” added Sébastien. “The goal was to manage the climb as much as possible so that everyone could go through it and therefore have more interested teams to make the chase”. Against four attackers who really believed in their chances, the pursuit immediately began and set the tone for two frenetic hours of racing. Many teams joined forces, many riders took turns over the kilometres, but the gap struggled to reduce. With fifty kilometres left to go, there were still 4’30. “There was great cooperation between rival teams, because we had the same goal and we worked well together”, underlined Ignatas Konovalovas. “The breakaways had good conditions, with a very strong tailwind and some slightly descending parts, but they were also very smart”. While the bunch really stretched out and never stopped to keep the pace, the four leading men still seemed capable of making it during the last hour of racing. “Of course, we doubted”, launched Sébastien. “We knew it would be close. We even had to use the first part of the train, with Tobias and Kono, but the goal this morning was really to come for victory. Then, it was going so fast that we knew we could rely on other teams in the final. On the other hand, it was essential not to disassemble the second part of the train”. About thirty kilometres from the finish, Tobias Ludvigsson therefore came to give a hand in the chase, like the Lithuanian champion ten kilometres later. A lot of riders gave their part, but the breakaway still had more than a minute entering the last ten kilometres.
“The guys did a huge job”, Arnaud Démare
“I thought the breakaway was going to make it”, confessed ‘Kono’. “I stopped pulling with eight kilometres from the finish, I sat up, and there were still more than thirty seconds. I did not ride for the train today, I put everything to close the gap. Each of the eight riders had a role to fulfil”. In one of the most breath-taking finals of this 2022 season, the peloton eventually came back less than twenty seconds from the break before a slight uphill road in the last two kilometres. Miles Scotson then took command and the Groupama-FDJ train went on to catch the last man just 600 meters from the line. Ramon Sinkeldam and Jacopo Guarnieri maintained the team in the forefront of the bunch in the last kilometre and could then launch Arnaud Démare in the final straight. The ciclamino jersey wearer then finished the job off, beating Phil Bauhaus, to take a third stage win on this Giro. “It’s an incredible day,” he said right away. “The leaders fought really well, I started to doubt a little when I saw our riders dropping one by one after having done a lot of work. I started to believe with ten kilometres to go. I thought about the sprint, but I was dead, and I wondered how I was going to be able to sprint! The guys did a huge job and I think our turn with 1.5 kilometre was really painful for the riders behind us. I think everyone arrived really tired for the sprint. The long, slight uphill home stretch was really tiring. I needed to wait, and I chose the right moment to launch. I would like to underline once again the work of my teammates who gave everything they had. I’m thinking of Clément, Attila, Tobias, Kono, who really did a great job to come back to the breakaway. In the final, the train was flawless. Miles, Ramon and Jacopo were exceptional in being able to lead me out with 200 metres to go. It was then a tough sprint, with what I had left, but it was a victorious one. It’s wonderful”.
In his own words, the Frenchman was “cooked” at the finish, but this crazy day surely was well worth living, and riding. “Before coming to this Giro, I told myself that just winning one stage would be great”, he said. “We must never underestimate victory, as you need to fight to get it. Even more so today.” “From memory, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a stage,” added Sébastien Joly. “Congratulations to all eight riders. We knew it was going to be a tough day. We may not have thought it was going to be so tough, but this stage will be remembered and that’s what makes the beauty of this sport”. As for Ignatas Konovalovas, he crossed the finish line kind of surprised a few minutes after his teammates. “I didn’t believe the bunch could come back, I even took off my radio, but when I crossed the finish line, I saw Arnaud with his hands in the air”, he said. “It was even more beautiful! “I haven’t even seen the final, but being rewarded at the end is the icing on the cake. It’s crazy“, said the young Clément Davy. In addition to getting an eighth victory on the Giro, a tenth in the Grand Tours and an 87th within the pros, Arnaud Démare further increased his lead in the points classification (117) on Friday. “The only danger would be to go home sooner than expected,” he concluded. “The goal is clear. There are nine stages left, we will need to finish within the time limits and work well with the guys to get to Verona”.