He got closer and closer all week. On Friday, Arnaud Démare eventually put a perfect end to the Groupama-FDJ’s Tour de Pologne by conquering the win in the streets of Krakow. Thanks to a very powerful sprint in the last two hundred meters, the French rider took a convincing victory and scored his fifth win of the year, the fourth in the WorldTour. The former French champion also won the points classification while Bruno Armirail completed the race in tenth place overall. A perfect ending to a good week.
“I waited to find the right space”, Arnaud Démare
Another bunch sprint was supposed to conclude the Tour de Pologne on Friday, between Valsir and the former country’s capital, Krakow. The hilly start could have been the perfect opportunity for a strong breakaway to go, but eventually, the sprinters’ teams managed to control the situation quite well. After ten kilometres, only four men then took the lead: Alessandro De Marchi (Israel-Premier Tech), Syver Waersted (Uno-X), Julius Johansen (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Jarrad Drizners (Lotto-Soudal). Once the main climbs of the day were passed, after fifty kilometres of racing, the peloton did not have any trouble keeping the fugitives at a close range. “Many teams were interested in a sprint finish”, said Sébastien Joly. “I also told the guys that we would go pulling in the second part of the race, which we did. Bruno went to chase first, up until the last thirty kilometres. Then, given that he was placed tenth overall, we wanted to spare him a bit. So, we put Quentin instead, and he did a great job in the final. Then, Kono took over together with Bruno”. The breakaway first split in the final circuit in Krakow, then Alessandro De Marchi kept on pushing until the beginning of the last lap, with five kilometres to go.
The teams started to organize the sprint, and Groupama-FDJ had to deal with the absence of Miles Scotson. “We knew he wouldn’t be there, but it was also a particular sprint,” said Sébastien. “We said that we had to rely on the others a little before the last kilometre, where Miles usually takes us out of the pack. We had to use a different strategy. Bram and Jacopo did what they needed to do, and Arnaud was very strong to finish it off!“ Although he wasn’t in the top position with one kilometre to go, the Frenchman managed to feel the right time to get out of the box and provide his final effort in order to fight for the win. He recounted later: “It was not my favorite sprint set-up. I was right in the middle of the pack. At the flamme rouge, I was in 20-25th position, so quite far. Eventually I moved up, and up, and up, and waited to find the right space. I was coming really fast and chose to go on the left. I didn’t know if Pascal Ackermann was going to close the door, but he didn’t. I then kept on pushing hard, and no one ever came back. I am really happy with this sprint”. Thanks to this powerful effort, the points jersey’s wearer proved much faster than his rivals and took the win, two days after his second place.
“We were in the mix every day”, Sébastien Joly
He therefore ensured his win in the points classification, while getting his fifth victory of the year. “It was a great week, which got a perfect conclusion today thanks to Arnaud and the work of the whole team”, claimed Sébastien. “The team spirit was great here in Poland. It was kind of similar to the one in Tirreno. The punchers/climbers helped the sprinters, and vice versa. It’s great we had this cohesion all week. It’s a successful race for us. We have a stage victory, a jersey and tenth place overall with Bruno. It’s a complete week, we were in the mix every day, and that’s the most important thing. The riders were good, but the staff, which we don’t often talk about, also worked really well. I also think of Miles today, because he also contributed a lot to the teamwork all week. We gave him the green light for the Commonwealth Games at the start of the year. It was important to him. We absolutely wanted to keep our momentum from the second part of the season. It is so. The guys all worked very well in July, and Bram, who joined us for the first time in a WorldTour race, is progressing in a lot of areas”. As for Arnaud Démare, he gained some confidence ahead of his next goals: “I knew I was going to face a big field of sprinters all week. Apart from the time trial, I fought hard in every stage because it was the ideal race to get ready. I didn’t finish in the gruppetto even once. It will do me a lot of good before the European Championships, Hamburg, then the races in France and Belgium”.