That’s the end of an unlucky series for Arnaud Démare. After four almost consecutive second places, the French sprinter finally broke the “curse” by winning the bunch sprint that concluded the Grand Prix d’Isbergues on Sunday. Finishing off a great teamwork, he took his sixth win of the season and the ninetieth of his career.

In the aftermath of the Primus Classic, Arnaud Démare and his teammates found themselves in the other part of the border to race the 76th Grand Prix d’Isbergues in the North of France. A bunch sprint seemed inevitable after 200 kilometres, despite a slightly hilly first half of the race. Seven riders still tried to upset the peloton’s plans by joining the breakaway in the first kilometres: Théo Delacroix (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Joris Delbove (St Michel-Auber 93), Cyril Gautier (B&B Hotels-KTM), Markus Hoelgaard (Trek-Segafredo), Samuel Leroux, Jérémy Leveau (Go Sport-Roubaix Lille Métropole) and Yannis Voisard (Tudor Pro Cycling). “It was quite straightforward”, explained Benoît Vaugrenard later. “The weather was good but there was a lot of wind, and we had to be careful in the small hills. We took the race in hand from the start because we definitely wanted a sprint at the end. Arnaud was second yesterday, and we absolutely wanted to win today. Olivier set the pace, then Alpecin-Deceuninck and AG2R-Citroën came to help us. We kept the breakaway at two minutes then we got to the final circuit that we had to cover six times”. With fifty kilometres to go, after completing the first lap, the leading group still had a gap inferior to two minutes.

“It feels really good”, Arnaud Démare

The fugitives however started to ride harder in order to prevent the bunch from coming back, and they were still up ahead with one lap left. Everything eventually came back together seven kilometres from the line, and the anticipated sprint was set to happen. “The breakaway gave us a hard time, we struggled to get them back, but hats off to Olivier and Lewis in particular”, added Benoît. “For the sprint, the instructions were clear. We had to take the lead entering the last kilometre, because we then turned to the left, and we had a tailwind on a slight descending road. It was very fast, and it was therefore absolutely necessary to be in front with our lead-out train. This is what happened thanks to Bram, Ramon, and Jacopo. They did an excellent job and Arnaud was perfectly dropped off”. Just 200 meters from the finish, the former French champion started his sprint in the lead and never saw his rivals coming back to him. Thanks to a powerful effort, he took a convincing victory, the sixth of the season. “I’m really happy to win,” he said. “I was a bit bothered to add up second places lately, and it feels really good to put my hands in the air. I think it’s well-deserved because the guys did a good job all day to keep the breakaway under control. We did all the work to get it back and then the train set up just as I wanted. The guys were up there when it was needed. It was really good. I then had the strength to do a strong sprint. When I started it, I felt that it was going to be difficult to overtake me, and it was confirmed”.

“Arnaud was very strong in the sprint, he finished it off, but the whole teamwork was great today, so hats off to all the guys”, congratulated Benoît. “It was not easy because it was very windy, there were almost 200 kilometres and their legs felt heavy after yesterday’s race in the rain, but they rode strongly as a team. It’s good for Arnaud too. He was up there lately, but we know that it is always important for a sprinter to win. For other types of riders, we can be satisfied with a third or fifth place, but a sprinter only likes winning. He returned to racing with a good second place yesterday, and he kept going today with a victory. We will still be able to count on him at the end of the season, with Paris-Chauny from next weekend”.

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