After an encouraging second place in the opening stage, the French champion was looking forward to fighting again for victory on Monday. However, he did not get the opportunity to do so. Arnaud Démare was blocked by a crash just before the last kilometre and could not take part in the final sprint, won by Cees Bol. The Frenchman should have one last shot on Thursday. Tomorrow, however, the GC riders will face a first crucial stage with the individual time trial in Gien.
“Of course I’m disappointed”, Arnaud Démare
After going round in circles on Sunday, the peloton of Paris-Nice started to head south on Monday, “racing to the sun” even though the sunlight was not missing for the second consecutive day. As for the wind, it was slightly stronger than the day before. “It was a typical day on Paris-Nice,” said Thierry Bricaud. “We know this is the kind of stage for echelons, but there wasn’t enough wind to really split the bunch apart. It certainly creates tension and causes crashes, as we witnessed it throughout the day, and it’s obviously tough if you are in the back, but generally speaking there was no real danger of echelons today”. After fifteen kilometers of racing, the Belgians Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) and Sander Armée (Qhubeka ASSOS) got away and could enjoy a lead of four minutes before the peloton got excited. The first time after eighty kilometers and the second time thirty kilometers later. However, it did not have any impact but to bring it back all together far from the finish. “The breakaway was caught after this attempt of echelons because the peloton started to ride very fast,” added Thierry. “Then, we always had to be careful and we could actually see that the teams were riding in front and it went like this until the finish. It may not look fast but the peloton was still going 45-50 km/h. Not much is happening on the telly but it is still quite tense in the bunch”.
The last hour and a half of racing was covered by a peloton where no attack occurred, but where some crashes did. In the last ten kilometers, the fight for positions started and the tension rose even more. “It was only the second day of racing and the stage had not been intense enough for the legs to be tired,” said Thierry. “This can explain why it was so nervous, adding to the fact that the final kilometers were contested on small roads, with some changes of direction and narrowings. Everyone wants to be positioned at the right time and there is no room for everyone”. In the wheel of Ramon Sinkeldam and Jacopo Guarnieri, Arnaud Démare was ready to go for it in the last minutes of racing. “We were able to move up in the last three kilometers, we made a good effort with Ramon and we were in a good position,” he said. “Then, a crash happened with one kilometre to go. I had to get on the sidewalk with Jacopo and our sprint was already over at that point. Of course I’m disappointed, we did not have the opportunity to try. It’s too bad”. “He was in the mix”, added Frédéric Guesdon, “but this crash changed everything. When you’re blocked with a kilometre to go, it’s almost impossible to move back up front”.
“David will try to limit his losses”, Frédéric Guesdon
The French champion now will have to wait until Thursday. “There is still a chance,” he concluded. “We will have to give everything for it”. Also, he will probably be able to get Miles Scotson back alongside him, as the Aussie suffered a little a day after his crash. “It was not terrible, but not great either”, said Miles. “I didn’t have the best sleep waking up during the night with some pain, but we did some treatment this morning and I felt better in the race. I would have liked to be there to help Arnaud in the final but I think today I have to accept it was difficult for me. I hope to have a better sleep tonight, to recover and see how the body is tomorrow but I’m confident I will recover from yesterday”. Before the French champion and his train return to the spotlight, David Gaudu will take over tomorrow and on Thursday for two decisive stages regarding the general classification. First, there is a 14,4 km-time trial to tackle in Gien. “Over such a distance, there won’t necessarily be big gaps, but we also know that races can be won in just a few seconds,” concluded Frédéric. “Therefore, it still is very important. David will give his all and try to limit his losses as best as possible in order not to have any regrets tomorrow night”.