Arnaud Démare and his teammates brilliantly seized their first opportunity on the 2020 Giro. Although the French champion only won by a few millimetres on Tuesday in Villafranco Tirrena, against Peter Sagan and Davide Ballerini, he did manage to finish it off after a great work from the whole Groupama-FDJ team. The French sprinter took his second stage win on the Giro, following the one of last year, and also scored his eleventh success of the season.
“Kilian and Simon were really impressive today”, Sébastien Joly
Arnaud Démare certainly tested his legs in Agrigento a few days ago, but his first real goal on the Giro was set for Tuesday, in a short 140-kilometer stage. The day kind of suited the sprinters, but not entirely as a long climb was to be tackled at the halfway point. In spite of this potential obstacle, the French champion’s team did took control of the peloton after a small breakaway went with Simon Pellaud (Androni-Sidermec), Kamil Gradek (CCC) and Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabù-KTM). Simon Guglielmi was in charge of keeping the leading trio within four minutes before they faced the only climb of the day, after 50 kilometers. “We knew it would be quite a special stage because of this very long climb halfway to the stage,” said Sébastien Joly. “It was not a steep one, but it was still particular. We made Kilian ride at the bottom with a dual goal: not to give the breakaway too much space, but not to get too close either so that the other teams would not try something”.
The Swiss climber set a decent tempo for a few minutes before Peter Sagan’s Bora-hansgrohe made the race harder ten kilometers from the top, almost as everyone was expected. “They accelerated in the parts that were a little steeper, and they managed to drop Gaviria and Viviani”, Sébastien added. At the summit, the Groupama-FDJ team still had six guys in the bunch. “I had really good legs and we got through the climb in a good position,” said the French champion. “It was tough but I was there, and so were the guys. We really have a strong team”. “Most of our guys remained in the peloton and did a good climb, and then a good descent,” said Sébastien. “Later, they were able to regroup on the flat part and especially get organized in the finale to rule Gaviria out. Kilian and Simon, who is competing in his first Grand Tour, did a lot of work. They were really impressive today”. Back in control about twenty-five kilometers from the finish, after letting Bora-hansgrohe do its part, Groupama-FDJ let their two climbers pull until the last ten kilometers before setting up the train, which was missing Ramon Sinkeldam today.
“We are not going to ease off”, Sébastien Joly
Ignatas Konovalovas, Miles Scotson and Jacopo Guarnieri were the ones supposed to lead out Arnaud Démare in the finale. “It was really dangerous on the wet road,” said the Italian. “We were a little scared. The goal is to win, but we still don’t want to crash, because the race is still long. Anyway, I believe that the train, and the team in general, worked really well”. After bringing up his teammates in front entering the last kilometre, Miles Scotson then took a slight advantage in the day’s last corner, with 800m to go. “It was not planned, but it forced the other teams to work, and I could then keep Jacopo for the last 400 meters”, explained the French champion, who then made his effort along the barriers and contested a very tight sprint against Peter Sagan and Davide Ballerini. That was so tight that the Frenchman didn’t even think he had won it. “At the finish, I think I’m second or third,” he said. “Also, Ballerini thought he got it and started to celebrate with his team. I was informed only later that I was the winner. However, I could not believe it until I got on the podium! I got lucky today, and it’s really amazing. I’m working on that last kick to the line with my father, and it’s paying off today”.
The photo finish gave the Frenchman’s advantage for a few millimetres and therefore confirmed the first win for Groupama-FDJ on this 103rd Giro. “There was a lot of joy within the team at the finish,” said Sébastien. “Our coach Anthony Bouillod travelled five hours to come here and film the last 10 kilometers when we arrived in Sicily. All of these little things pay off. I mean that everyone’s work contributed to today’s millimetre”. The first goal is now completed, but many more are still to come Arnaud and his group. “When we got here, we were aiming for several stage victories, not just one,” Sébastien recalled. “We are starting this Giro in a good way, we got the first victory, but we are not going to ease off. We will keep this momentum going. This victory surely made an impression”. “It’s great,” concluded Arnaud. “And as I told the team: if we win early, we will have more opportunities to follow”. As for the cyclamen jersey classification, where he now sits second (50 points vs 57 for Sagan), “it will come naturally if the victories also come”.