Still in the fight for third place entering the home stretch, Arnaud Démare was unable to play his cards properly in the finish of Milan-San Remo. Boxed in on the left of the road, the former winner of the race touched the barriers and punctured, forcing him to stop pedalling. He then finished beyond the top 20, but having nonetheless showed once again an excellent form, which he will be able to benefit from in his next appointments.

A lot of courage was required to get in the lead when leaving Milano on Saturday morning for the “Primavera”. No less than 305 kilometers were indeed on the menu for the day, without counting the ten neutralised start’s kilometers. However, seven riders got a gap in the very first moments: Mattia Bais (Andorni-Sidermec), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Fabio Mazzucco, Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Damiano Cima (Gazprom-RusVelo), Hector Carretero (Movistar) as well as Marco Frapporti (Vini-Zabu). Their advantage quickly grew, but given the loss of a rider per team, the favourites did not take any risks. Instead of the 10-12 minutes that are usually given to the leaders, only six were granted, at most, in this 111th edition of the Classicissima.

The seven breakaway riders therefore always remained controlled by the peloton, where Groupama-FDJ also did its share of the work thanks to Ignatas Konovalovas. For once, the race also got away from the seaside to an unknown course, where the pace gradually picked up as the second part of the race started. The riders first crossed the Niella Belbo, then the long Colle di Nava. Frédéric Guesdon’s men remained careful and approached the descente in the first positions. The peloton then returned to the original course, along the coast. The brave breakaway was caught a few hundred meters from the foot of La Cipressa, the day’s first decisive climb. The first attacks then started and a few sprinters got dropped. As far as he was concerned, Arnaud Démare was doing well in the first part of the peloton.

“A little disappointment regarding the podium”, Arnaud Démare

At the top, the peloton was already reduced and headed towards the Poggio. Well protected and brought up front by Stefan Küng approaching this last climb, Arnaud Démare then found himself on his own and actually made a strong impression by keeping his position in the top 10-15 of the group when many riders were getting drop. But two men got away: last year’s winner Julian Alaphilippe and last Strade Bianche’s champion Wout van Aert. Arnaud Démare found himself in a chasing group of about fifteen men but never saw the 5-10 seconds gap closing with the leading duo, which therefore played the win. Van Aert then conquered his first Monument by outsprinting the Frenchman. In the fight for the podium a bit behind, the Groupama-FDJ’s lead was unable to sprint properly.

“I was caught in a wave on the left, I was pushed on the barriers, and I punctured,” said Arnaud. “I don’t know if that costs me the podium because I was did not start my sprint in the best conditions, but there were 300 meters left to go and there was still a way to move up. It’s the little disappointment, because I still felt strong physically. However, there are no regrets about the victory. The two guys in front were better. We climbed the Poggio very fast. We were all at the limit. We can see that we come to the line in a small group, and I did not think that we were so few”. His 24th place obviously did not meet the initial expectations. “We were hoping for much better this morning,” confirmed Frédéric. “We had a group in good physical shape and very motivated. We really came here to win. It is a shame because we don’t get eliminated physically, but by an incident. It’s a little disappointment. We certainly wouldn’t have contested the victory, but I think there was a way to get the podium. It was a very difficult day anyway; they did 300 kilometers in the heat. We are a little disappointed at the finish but everyone really gave their all”.

Arnaud Démare is now heading to the Tour de Wallonie where he will try to get some more wins. Stefan Küng will join Thibaut Pinot on Wednesday at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

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