A very special final was anticipated today on the second stage of the UAE Tour. In the Hatta Dam finish, the climbers, punchers and sprinters usually mix on a wall of 200 meters at 15%, where strong men inevitably stand out. This Monday, Arnaud Démare was one of them, and was able to take a very nice third place on the line, only beaten by Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan, winner for the second year in a row in this place. The Frenchman obtained his first podium of the season while David Gaudu also managed to get in the stage’s top 10.
Unfortunately, the day started with a bad news for Sébastien Joly and Jussi Veikkanen’s troop. After getting sick overnight, Miles Scotson was unable to start the second stage of the race. “He had a very bad night”, said Sébastien. “He went to see the doctor at three in the morning, shaking. It was therefore out of the question to make him race under these conditions. It was wiser for him to stop there.” With only six riders remaining for the rest of the race, the Groupama-FDJ team nonetheless set off with a real goal on Monday, especially since the day’s breakaway, quickly formed by teammates Leonardo Tortomasi and Veljko Stojnic ( Vini Zabù – KTM), looked pretty harmless against a bunch willing to battle.
“The legs were good” Arnaud Démare
“Last night, Arnaud already had the stage in mind and had changed his gear, going from 54 to 53”, added Sébastien. “We talked with him and it was worth trying, even if he was unsure where he stood physically. He was afraid of coming a bit short because he hadn’t worked too much on lactic efforts, but we thought it was still a good thing to test him, so we rode for him today. It was important so we asked the whole team to stay focused, even if it was a bit difficult, and that’s what they all managed to do”. The breakaway was then caught twenty kilometers from the finish, shortly after the peloton decided to really put the hammer down on the undulating route, where the leader Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) struggled as many others. “Our riders managed to get past the climbs of the finale, it was very good,” added Sébastien. “Unfortunately, the roads were a bit damaged in the end, and we suffered some punctures and mechanical problems, with Ramon [Sinkeldam] and Ignatas [Konovalovas]. It is a pity, especially that because of this, Arnaud found himself a bit isolated. Fortunately, when he also lost positions due to a mechanical problem, he found back Bruno who did a very good job to bring him back to the front of the peloton.”
Arnaud Démare also talked about this lively finale. “The two climbs made the race hard and some sprinters could not survive them”, he said. “Then, with 1200 meters to go, I hit a speed bump and my chain jumped. I had to stop pedalling for 10-15 seconds, which seems quite long in those moments. Then Bruno got to me and gave me a small push, the chain got back on place but I lost around 20-25 places because of this incident. I just came back in the first 15 at the bottom of the final hill. I knew you had to be in the first 5 or 3 to be able to win, but the legs were still good in the sprint and I’m satisfied”. Behind Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan, who perfectly took advantage of their position to make a gap from the bottom, Arnaud Démare outsprinted the rest of a crumbled bunch for third place. “Ewan was today a little better on this type of finish, but it certainly enabled Arnaud to reassure himself. He was not overly surprised because he knew he had worked well”, added Sébastien. “We felt him rather satisfied with this good result, but above all confident for the next few days, so it’s going in the right way. We don’t want to stop there and we’re going to work in order that he can see where he stands compared to the best sprinters of the world. There are three opportunities left for sprinting, we will seize them, even if we will miss Miles in our lead-out train. “
“David needed a harder stage” Sébastien Joly
However, Démare won’t be back in action tomorrow as David Gaudu will take over for the hill-top finish of Jebel Hafeet, where he got a nice third place last year. The climber from Brittany has also shown good signs today. “David was in the top 10 of the stage, that’s interesting for the general classification”, concluded Sébastien. “It shows that he’s also in good shape. Like Arnaud, he needed a harder stage like today’s one to wake the body up and do more intense efforts. That is what they did today, and they could reassure themselves at the same time. The two of them are quite confident for the upcoming stages and the team around them is also going well, that’s the most important”.