On Wednesday, Arnaud Démare was finally able to deliver a proper sprint, and he didn’t miss much to get his first victory of the season. In stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico, the former French champion found himself in a good position ahead of the final sprint, which he actually started himself. He managed to keep all his competitors behind, except for Caleb Ewan, who overtook him in the last few meters. Arnaud Démare therefore placed second and will try to improve this ranking on Sunday on the final stage. In the meantime, harder stages lie ahead.
“Everyone managed to give a hand”, Sébastien Joly
The third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico was much shorter than the previous one, but the outcome was theoretically the same. After 170 kilometres towards Terni, in Umbria, a bunch sprint was indeed expected. For this reason, the fight for the breakaway did not prove intense and six men easily went away, namely Luca Rastelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Mattia Bais, Edoardo Zardini (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Davide Bais, Mirco Maestri (Eolo-Kometa) and Taco Van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert). Their lead got up to six minutes at best, but it wasn’t long before the peloton took on the chase while Davide Bais got back in the peloton after picking up the KOM points. From then on, the gap was always kept around two minutes. However, this advantage was quickly reduced entering the last fifty kilometres when the UAE Team Emirates formation decided to set a high tempo in the bunch. The breakaway was soon caught, and four riders later took advantage of the bonus sprint, contested on a climb with twenty-five kilometres to go, to hit the front. Four riders then, and not the least: Tadej Pogacar, Julian Alaphilippe, Tao Geoghegan Hart, and Marc Soler. “Today, the most important thing was to manage to put Arnaud in the best possible conditions. That’s what everyone did, starting with Thibaut, Antoine, and Tobias who, like yesterday, worked really well”, said Sébastien Joly. “When the four champions went away, we started pulling immediately so as not to give them the chance to go all the way”.
The quartet managed to get a thirty-second gap but was caught with twelve kilometres to go, on a large straight section. It was then time to prepare for the sprint. “I think the hardest part was getting to the last three kilometres,” explained Arnaud Démare. “There was a hard fight up until there. It was less the case afterwards, because everyone was already kind of cooked, and nobody was therefore able to move up on either side. I was able to recover a little at that moment, because before that, it was only about braking and accelerating”. The train perfectly came back up three kilometres from the line, and everything went a bit smoother from then on. “Every member of the train managed to give a hand,” underlined Sébastien Joly. “Jacopo was very well placed with Arnaud at 1600 meters when they started to turn right, then he himself brought him up well and at the right time. Then, it was just a tough sprint.” The former champion of France later explained it in detail: “Jacopo and the guys did a very good job. We absolutely wanted me to sprint, and I wanted to be in the first three in the corner at 250 meters, and then launch the sprint. That’s what I did. I know it’s my strength to go hard from afar. Even if I never found the right grip on the cobbles, I felt good, I saw myself winning, but twenty metres from the line, Caleb Ewan passed me…”. The Frenchman crossed the line in second position, which despite being his best performance of the year was not satisfying to him.
“Yes, I was able to sprint, but I want to win”, Arnaud Démare
“I’m gutted,” he said straight after the finish, and added later: “It’s a big disappointment because we don’t have many opportunities like the one I had today. Yes, I was able to sprint today, but I want to win. And precisely, when I have opportunities like this one, I can’t throw it away. There are now many sprinters, the level is high, and not everyone can sprint every day. It’s impossible. There are fewer and fewer chances. There are always a few favourite sprinters who don’t get their chance. Yesterday, there were for example Viviani, Ewan, Bouhanni, Kristoff and me. There is a new generation, everyone has a sprinter, and even those who are not favourites come to rub shoulders in the final. The level is so homogeneous, so when we have opportunities like today, we must seize them”. “Yesterday there was frustration, today there is disappointment, but with a bit of satisfaction as we feel we got back in the game”, added Sébastien Joly. “He absolutely had to sprint, and he did. He was of course disappointed on the bus, but I don’t expect anything else because you can’t be satisfied with second place”. While Tobias Ludvigsson moved up one position overall (6th), the terrain will now get a bit tougher on Tirreno-Adriatico. “The next three days will allow Thibaut to test himself and ride like he wants to”, said Sébastien. “As for the train, we expect him back on Sunday”. “This second place is still motivating for the last sprint”, concluded Arnaud. “We will be even more tired than we were today. It’s up to me to handle the next few days in a good way to get there as fresh as possible.”