It is done! The Groupama-FDJ cycling team got its first victory in this second part of the 2020 season. It is also the first one for Arnaud Démare this year, after having come so close on several occasions. On Wednesday, in Milan-Turin, the Frenchman could take the win after a strong final sprint that followed a perfect teamwork in the last kilometers. Two years after Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Démare puts the team back at the top of the Italian Classic. A very good sign indeed, few days prior to Milano-Sanremo.
“Everything went as we hoped”, Frédéric Guesdon
Because of a redesigned course, more suited to the sprinters than the climbers, a simple scenario was anticipated on the 101st edition of Milano-Torino on Wednesday. It was then a six-man breakaway that took the lead very early, including Gijs van Hoecke (CCC), Davide Villella (Movistar), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Andrea Garioso and Samuele Rivi (Vini Zabu-KTM), while the peloton decided to control through the numerous sprinters’ teams. Among them, Groupama-FDJ, with a brand new rider: Clément Davy, “lent” by the Conti. “We absolutely wanted a sprint finish so we made Clément pull behind the breakaway,” explained Frédéric Guesdon. “It was his first race back, it was not easy for him, especially since he was asked to work almost from the start. But there is nothing to complain about! He rode with good teams and good riders, and they weren’t joking around there, as there were good riders in the break. He held up until kilometer 180. It was great, a good job!”
After the young Frenchman, Arnaud Démare’s lead-out train appeared fifteen kilometers from the finish, first in the wake of Kevin Geniets and Ignatas Konovalovas. Well positioned at the front, they avoided the crash that split the peloton with seven kilometers to go. “We worked well on this final beforehand,” said Frédéric. “We avoided the crash and then everything went as we hoped”. In the last two kilometers, Miles Scotson brought up Ramon Sinkeldam, Jacopo Guarnieri and Arnaud Démare in the lead. And they never left this position. “Miles is fitting very well in this group,” noted Frédéric. “This was already the case last year, but he had another role. Being a strong time trialist, when he’s in good shape, he’s able to make that kind of effort in the final.” Ramon then took over from Miles, and then Jacopo did his part before Arnaud concluded it all in style. “It’s easier to do what you want to do when the group is in good shape,” Frédéric added. “The field was strong today, there were great riders, but like in Burgos, they showed that they are ready.”
“I have great feelings at the moment”, Arnaud Démare
About these last moments, a very happy race winner said: “It went exactly as we planned! We did what we said at the briefing. The final was quite hectic with a lot of roundabouts but we managed to stay together and to show up at the right time, as we wanted. In the home stretch, Jacopo is leading me out but Sagan launches quite early, about 250 meters to go. I react very quickly and I’m aggressive enough not to let myself be blocked by Caleb Ewan and to be able to sprint. I’m super happy, it’s great. The whole team is doing very well. This is also what I want to underline. Personally, I also have great feelings at the moment and the guys know that.” Trapped a couple times in the Vuelta a Burgos, Arnaud Démare did not fail to make a point on the first ‘’clean’’ sprint since the season restart. “We knew we had the legs but it was important to show that we could win, not just take second places,” he added. “It’s good to have the condition but the most important is to raise your arms. “
Now, it is done, just three days before his big August’s appointment that is the “Primavera”. “Winning today is really perfect, also to gain confidence before Milan-Sanremo,” said the Frenchman. “It is a good sign. This is reassuring and it confirms our very high ambitions for this weekend. We’re going to go there like the previous years, with a lot of motivation, but I feel that we have made a step forward this year”. And his sports director concluded: “We have been looking for this victory for a while so we can only be happy. We are always afraid that the wheel of fortune doesn’t turn at the right time. We needed it. It’s always good to come to Milano-Sanremo with a win and knowing that everyone is in good shape. We know that this race suits Arnaud and we can hope for very nice things on Saturday”.