The finish in Manga del Mar Menor, in the province of Murcia, did not prove successful for Arnaud Démare on Saturday. After 173 kilometers of racing in stage 8 of the Vuelta, the Groupama-FDJ sprinter was once again unable to deliver a proper sprint, and could not compete with Fabio Jakobsen for victory. He took sixth place on the day, while a mountaintop finish is set to conclude the first week of racing on Sunday.
The first part of the Vuelta’s eighth stage on Saturday was quite a stereotypical one of a sprint stage. Three riders from three invited teams, namely Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH), Aritz Bagues (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Mikel Iturria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), went away in the very first kilometre and the sprinters’ teams immediately controlled them. This time, Groupama-FDJ however let others do the chasing. “We had decided to keep everything for the sprint and therefore not to pull in order to have a bit more freshness in the final, as we must not forget that two of our riders crashed in recent days”, said Philippe Mauduit. While the gap from the leading trio dropped under two minutes after the intermediate sprint, where Arnaud Démare got fifth, the race got tenser and a few splits occurred entering the last hour of racing. “We started to be attentive at the top of the two hills located forty kilometres from the finish because we felt something was in the making,” added Anthony Roux. “We did a job on the climb and then we were all in the first echelon. That was a good thing”. The breakaway was therefore caught with more than thirty-five kilometres to go and the bunch then made its way to the finish.
“I’m especially disappointed for the guys”, Arnaud Démare
Not right in front entering the last ten kilometres, the Groupama-FDJ lead-out train came back up with five kilometres to go following Kevin Geniets and Anthony Roux’s lead. “The team had a bit more freshness in the final and they placed the train well since Ramon, Jacopo and Arnaud were in a perfect position at the flamme rouge”, said Philippe. However, the former French champion was unable to challenge Fabio Jakobsen’s victory on the home stretch. “Arnaud got a bit boxed in the last 700 meters, he lost Jacopo’s wheel and it got very complicated from then on,” added Philippe. In the background, the French sprinter therefore fought for the remaining places and crossed the line in seventh position (sixth after Molano’s DSQ). “It was a fast sprint and the guys did a great job,” said Arnaud. “The whole team did a great job. I am especially disappointed for them, for not having been able to reward them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work every time. I am surely disappointed, but I give my best. Everything went well for me last year. It’s a little more complicated this year. We should not panic, although it is not the first week I was hoping for. Then, if I remember the 2018 Tour de France, I won stage 18 and had to struggle until the last week. We’re going to keep fighting, thinking about what I’ve done in the past.”
Philippe Mauduit’s balance was not all bad either on Saturday night. “It’s true we missed another opportunity today, but there were still some positive things,” he said. “The guys really committed to it, the teamwork was better than usual and Jacopo is back to the level we expected from him. So we keep going in this Vuelta with the same ambition. Every day, a little something made us fail, but we always fixed it”. The next opportunity for Arnaud Démare and his teammates should be on stage 13. Until then, there is still a first week to finish and some climbs to go through. “We need a constant goal, and not just wait for the next sprint. We’ll then have to join in the fight for the breakaways,” concluded Philippe.