Like most of the sprinters, Arnaud Démare was unable to contest the victory on the Via Roma this Sunday, in the 2021 edition of Milano-Sanremo. Dropped back in the chasing group after a very fast way up into the Poggio, the French champion came to the finish line just a few seconds after the leading group and the winner Jasper Stuyven. The Frenchman now heads to the Northern Classics.
After being moved to summer last year, Milano-Sanremo regained its usual place on the calendar, thus giving meaning again to its nickname, “La Primavera”. However, the temperature was still quite cool at the start, shortly after 9:30 am, when the 112th edition of the race kicked off. Within the Groupama-FDJ cycling team, racing for the French champion Arnaud Démare, a last-minute guest was set to face the 299 kilometers on the day’s menu (in addition to the 7.5km of the neutral start). This guest was Clément Davy, 22 years old, coming from the “Conti” and about to race his first Monument… the day after riding the Koksijde Bredene Classic. “I was not happy with myself yesterday because I was quickly dropped in the bergs,” said the young man. “I was very far away, I was actually out of the race, but I still wanted to get to the final circuit. It’s only when I crossed the line that I found out I was taking the plane to Milan. I went through all the emotions: I was disappointed with myself regarding the race, but super euphoric regarding Milano-Sanremo”.
“I could not follow on the Poggio”, Arnaud Démare
Concentration replaced euphoria this morning, while the day’s breakaway established itself quickly with Filippo Tagliani, Mattia Viel (Androni-Sidermec), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Andrea Peron, Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk) and Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo). The gap went up to seven minutes before the teams of the three main favourites (Alpecin-Fenix, Deceuninck-Quick Step and Jumbo-Visma) decided to take control. The race went on peacefully and only got a bit tense in the ascent and descent of Colle del Giovo halfway through the race. “Honestly, I was expecting a very long day but it went by really fast,” said Clément Davy. “Time goes by faster on the bike than on the sofa. However, the hardest thing is to remain very careful all the time regarding potential crashes, holes in the road etc. Personally, that’s what cost me in the end. Physically, it was not too bad at all, but I wasn’t clear-headed anymore because of the fatigue. My role was also to protect Arnaud from the wind throughout the day, and I think I did it quite well”.
As usual, the race became livelier approaching the “Capi”, which caused some minor damage, but the real fight started in the kilometers prior to the Cipressa. Ignatas Konovalovas, Ramon Sinkeldam, Jacopo Guarnieri and Kevin Geniets perfectly positioned the French champion, who even crossed the top in the very first positions. After the downhill, he then found himself in a reduced group in the flat part leading to the Poggio, along with Kevin Geniets. However, the peloton got back together with thirteen kilometers to go and it got much more difficult to find a good position. Approaching the iconic climb of the race, the team was blocked along the barriers when trying to get back up front, and Arnaud Démare was left in around twentieth position at the bottom. Ineos then really stretched the bunch out and the main favourites attacked towards the top. “On Milano-Sanremo, you can feel very good, and suddenly, you don’t have the legs anymore, explained the French champion. It’s when you really have to push on the pedals that you understand whether you’re in a good day or not. That only happens after 5 hours of racing. The legs were good on the Cipressa, but in the Poggio, I could not follow. I’m disappointed that I could not get over the climb better”.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of”, Frédéric Guesdon
The world’s top punchers made a gap on the top, and Jasper Stuyven attacked this group of about ten riders shortly after the downhill. He was joined by Soren Kragh Andersen a bit later, but he could still make it to the line, just ahead of Caleb Ewan and Wout van Aert. Six seconds later, Arnaud Démare crossed the line in a chasing group, in 26th position. “I’m with guys of my level”, said Arnaud, “but I needed to be better than that to be in front”. “We did the race we had to do,” said Frédéric Guesdon. “The guys were in good position where they needed to be. We had hope because Arnaud climbed the Cipressa very well. In the Poggio however, he suffered a bit, but he’s where he’s supposed to be. He missed a bit to take the good move on the Poggio, but ‘’a bit” in this race makes big differences at the finish. We have nothing to be ashamed of, that’s important too. We are obviously disappointed because we always race to win, but that’s sport. Everyone did a great job from start to finish. We would have preferred a better result, but we must keep trying. There are other races ahead. We won’t win Milan-San Remo this year, but we can win other races.”
Arnaud Démare will now head to Belgium and contest Classic Brugge-De Panne and Gand-Wevelgem next week, two WorldTour events where he will once again aim for victory. In other news, his young teammate Clément Davy completed his very first Monument on Saturday. “I was aiming to finish this race,” he concluded. “Obviously, I needed the body to hold long enough, but in the end I got only dropped with 35 kilometers to go. For me, there were no other options than getting to the line. I was also thinking of the future. I was able to do a “recon” kind of, and now I know the circuit. Anyway, today my eyes saw plenty but my legs also took plenty”.