The victory counter got going again on Friday for Arnaud Démare and the Groupama-FDJ cycling team. After a slightly frustrating third place on Thursday, the French champion did not miss the opportunity on stage 2 of the Boucles de la Mayenne as he finished the great teamwork with victory. A clear winner on the line, the French sprinter also climbs to second overall before the last two stages, which could end up with bunch sprints as well.  

“Clément and Kono fulfilled their mission perfectly”, Frédéric Guesdon

With 80 very hilly kilometers in the middle of the course, stage 2 of the Boucles de la Mayenne was undoubtedly the most demanding one, on paper. A sprint at the finish was not guaranteed, but it was for sure highly hoped for the Groupama-FDJ team. Therefore, when only five men went away after ten minutes of racing, it was still a good scenario for Frédéric Guesdon and Marc Madiot’s men. The breakaway was composed of Stan Dewulf (AG2R Citroën), Angel Fuentes (Burgos-BH), Francisco Galvan (Equipo Kern Pharma), Morne Van Niekerk (St-Michel-Auber 93) as well as … a former Conti’s rider, Ziga Jerman (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec). The group was able to take a four-minute advantage while Alpecin-Fenix ​​took control of the chase. The chase got disturbed a little entering the first climbs as a few counter-attacks came from the peloton. Only Benoit Cosnefroy’s one proved successful, and the latter joined the breakaway about halfway through the race. Nonetheless, the peloton remained careful and only was two minutes behind before the last two climbs. “The penultimate hill was covered really fast, which made the gap decrease, and on the last climb we got in front with Uno-X,” said Frédéric. “We didn’t want to climb it too fast because we wanted it to be as much gathered as possible at the top in order to pull afterwards”.

Within the peloton, the plan was indeed crystal clear for Arnaud Démare’s teammates. “The course was demanding but we managed our efforts well on the climbs, especially on the last one,” explained his lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri. “We ended up in front because we positioned ourselves beforehand and it was in our own interest to go up as slow as possible, but the climb still was very hard. Then, we did well with Clément and Kono, who took on the race with Uno-X”. With forty-five kilometres to go, the chase really started on a faster portion while three men still remained in the lead with a lead of 3’30. “There was still a decent gap, we could not take it easy,” said Arnaud. “Our two guys did a great job. It was going really fast, the gap was going down, the kilometers went by quickly and we knew we would catch them“. “Clément and Kono fulfilled their mission perfectly,” commented Frédéric. The trio’s lead was reduced to two minutes with twenty kilometres to go and to forty-five seconds with ten kilometers remaining. “We had them in our sights in the final, which was contested with the headwind, and we knew it would come back all together,” explained Jacopo. Teammates Dewulf and Cosnefroy were the last ones to be caught, shortly after the flamme rouge.

“If we continue like this…”, Arnaud Démare

At this point, the sprint has already started. “I had all my guys to do a great sprint and that’s what we did,” said Arnaud. “We took control a bit early but Miles was very strong. We were in the lead at the kilometre-marker and we remained there until the end. Ramon did a very good pull, he took the last turn very fast, Jacopo gave another hard push in the last hundred metres and when I saw that guys were launching their sprint at the right, I opened mine at the left and it was just full-gas until the line”. On the finish line in Évron, the French champion clearly got the win, his 5th of the year. “Physically, I was happy with my performance yesterday and the team did their part as well, but you can’t win every time,” he said. “It’s been five weeks since the whole group has raced for the last time, we are all coming back to racing. We are there to get into the race rhythm but also to get confidence and victories”. “It’s always good to win, no matter what the race is,” Frédéric said. “This group will take part in ‘smaller’ races in the coming weeks, but they are not the easiest to win. When we show up with a rider like Arnaud, we have to take the race in hand and it is not easy because almost the entire peloton is against us”.

Thanks to today’s victory, a first goal has been met on these 2021 Boucles de la Mayenne, but others could follow. “I take it day by day,” said Arnaud Démare, second overall, 12 seconds behind Philipp Walsleben. “Today was the hardest stage. If we continue like this and repeat some great sprints, we’ll see where it can lead us…” “We are not going to think too much about the overall standings”, Frédéric said. “We can always get caught up tactically.  This race is difficult to control, especially at the start of the stage. Anyway, we are almost forced to win tomorrow if we want to hope to win the GC”.

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