The ball is finally rolling. On Saturday, on stage 2 of the Boucles de la Mayenne, Arnaud Démare took his first victory in 2023, which he was seeking for a while. After a day and a final perfectly controlled by his teammates, the Frenchman won the bunch sprint and conquered his 92nd career success. He also moved up to second place in the general classification while bringing the sixth victory of the year to Groupama-FDJ. A new opportunity of winning should come already on Sunday.

Following the breakaway’s victory on Friday, a real gap was made on the general classification. Therfore, a single objective remained for Groupama-FDJ starting this weekend of racing in the Boucles de la Mayenne: to win. That’s why the plan, leaving Saint-Berthevin, was just for Benoit Vaugrenard’s men to do everything they could to help their leader Arnaud Démare raise his arms. “The hardest thing was to handle the start well so that not too many runners broke away”, explained the French sports director. “We know this is never easy to control with teams of six riders, especially since we also knew that the others were going to let us do today”. The start was indeed lively, and it was only after an hour of racing that the day’s first breakaway was able to go clear. Samuel Leroux (Van Rysel-Roubaix Lille Métropole), Cyril Barthe (Burgos-BH) and Léo Danès (CIC U Nantes Atlantique) took the lead, but never enjoyed more than a three-minute gap. The peloton remained careful at the back, in particular thanks to the pace set by the regional man, Clément Davy. However, everything became way more stressful with seventy kilometres to go following a big acceleration in the pack. “It was not easy”, said again Benoît. “Cofidis wanted to go for the bonus seconds, so they brought everyone back. Then three riders broke away again, and it was ideal. The best ranked overall was fifty seconds down, so it was perfect for us”.

“The guys were impressive, one after the other”, Benoît Vaugrenard

Sixty kilometres from the end, another trio therefore took the lead: Jérémy Leveau (Van Rysel-Roubaix Lille Métropole), Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal-WB) and Jean-Louis Le Ny (Nice Métropole Côte d’Azur). The peloton remained less than two minutes behind at all times, and logically reduced the gap in the last twenty kilometres. Eventually, it all came back together with twelve kilometres to go, starting the last lap around Meslay-du-Maine. “Clément did a great work behind the breakaway, but all the guys did their part today”, insisted Benoît. “In the final, there was first Clément and Lorenzo at work, then Laurence, Bram and Miles did a very good job as well. We knew it was going to be tricky again, because it is now tricky in every sprint, even outside the WorldTour. Everyone wants to make a space for himself, everyone has something to go for. It was absolutely necessary to stay in front, especially in the last false flat between four and two kilometres to go, in order to avoid any crashes that could occur. The guys handled it well. Arnaud had a strong team by his side. The guys impressive, one after the other”. In the last five kilometres, the Groupama-FDJ lead-out train made its way to the head of the peloton and did not get overcome. One by one, Arnaud Démare’s teammates set the tempo, before the French sprint himself made the final effort in the last 300 meters.

“For sure, it feels good”, Arnaud Démare

“Miles took the lead with 500 metres to go, and I had to make sure to do a very long sprint,” said Arnaud. “It suited me well precisely because it started from far”. “Arnaud likes these sprints, where he is in good position and can start when he wants”, added Benoît Vaugrenard. “He shows better his worth in these conditions”. On Saturday, the former French champion showed it once again. After a powerful sprint, which he started ahead of everyone else, the rider from Beauvais managed to resist to all his rivals to clinch his first victory of the year. “Obviously, it’s nice,” he said at the finish. “When you’re struggling and you’re looking for that victory, it feels good for sure to raise your arms. I have good feelings again. I’ve always had the motivation, but it’s hard to do something when you don’t have the energy. It’s great to win today, and the whole team did a tremendous work. Laurence did a great job, Clément rode all day, Lorenzo did a big part in the final circuit, and I don’t forget Bram and Miles. It was a great team victory”. “He had a tough start to the season, and even if Arnaud has won a lot of races in his career, the first one of the season is always difficult to get”, explained Benoît. “So, it’s obviously a big relief and a good boost for confidence. In addition, his family and his daughter were there. It was a great moment for him.”

Thanks to his 92nd career victory, Arnaud Démare also jumped to second place in the general classification of the Boucles de la Mayenne on Saturday. On the other hand, the goal will remain the same tomorrow in Laval. “We were on our terrain today, we had to take responsability, and that’s what we will do again tomorrow”, confirmed Benoît. “There should be a new opportunity for victory tomorrow, even we will have to remain careful in the event of moves”, concluded Arnaud.

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