Arnaud Démare finally did it! The French champion raised his arms for the first time of the season on Sunday, in La Roue Tourangelle – the French Cup’s third round -. Not so lucky in his last races, the Frenchman took full advantage of a small bunch sprint after a lively final to open his 2021 account. This is also the second victory of the season for the team.

“Arnaud took his responsibilities”, Thierry Bricaud

Instead of the Tour of Flanders, Arnaud Démare chose to ride La Roue Tourangelle on Sunday, with a very clear objective. “I’m going there to raise my arms,” ​​he said a few days before the event. As the big favorite of this 2021 edition, he also had to endorse some pressure. Therefore, when Dylan Kowalski (Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Métropole), Martin Bugge Urianstad (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Théry Schir (Swiss Racing Academy), Valentin Ferron (Total Direct Energie) and Alessandro Fedeli (Delko) took the lead at the beginning of the day, his young teammate Paul Penhoët went to pull all alone. “He did 140km at the head of the peloton”, said Thierry Bricaud. “He will sleep well tonight”. Thanks to the work of the Conti’s rider, the bunch always stayed quite close from the breakaway, just 2-3 minutes behind. However, entering the last 40 kilometres, the gap reduced to one minute and the race became really lively. Lewis Askey and Benjamin Thomas replaced Paul Penhoët at first, but the undulating profile of the final did not make for an efficient chase. The team still managed to cover the attacks until the end of the short cobblestone sector, 33 kilometers from the finish. However, a few hills afterwards allowed a handful of men to slip away and make an interesting gap.

“We expected this racing scenario,” said Thierry Bricaud. “We knew we were going to have to pull for part of the day and that we were going to be attacked in the final. This is exactly what happened. We were indeed a bit overwhelmed. In particular, we lost Kono due to a mechanical incident and then we quickly found ourselves in trouble”. This racing scenario even forced the French champion to accelerate in the Côte des Carnaux, with fifteen kilometers to go. “We paid for our efforts in the final and the other teams were just waiting for one thing: that I find myself alone,” he explained. “They attacked us. I had to attack as well, but of course everyone was following me. I was the man to beat, it was really complicated.” “Arnaud simply took his responsibilities”, added Thierry. “We had imagined that scenario, and he had to face it if it happened. He raced to win, he showed himself early on, he made an effort and tried to bridge across. Then, other teams took their responsibilities because they also wanted to win. It turned out well but we still were a bit fortunate”.

“It’s super nice”, Arnaud Démare

While reduced to just thirty riders or so after the Epan climb, the bunch got organized approaching Tours and was eventually able to catch the dangerous move with four kilometres remaining. “In the final, Arnaud did really well”, said Thierry. “He pretty much managed the sprint on his own.” “I tried to stay discreet in the bunch, or at least what was left of it, until the final circuit,” said the sprinter. “Arkéa-Samsic still had a few guys there. Without teammates in the bunch, I knew I had to focus on another team. I made the choice to take the wheel of Nacer [Bouhanni]”. This proved to be a good choice as he entered the home stretch in third position. “I knew I had to launch pretty early, that’s when I’m at my best,” he added. “I started with 200 meters to go and it went perfectly.” The French champion immediately took the lead and did not let it go until the line. He could therefore celebrate his first win of the season.

“It’s super nice to win, especially since we were the team to beat and all the weight of the race was on our shoulders,” said Arnaud. “I really had no choice but to win today. Everyone was expecting me and everyone wanted to make us lose. I’m very happy for the team, and also personally to be back on top of the podium”. “It’s not a relief,” Thierry concluded. “Arnaud just needed to win again after his impressive streak last year. We could tell it was getting better and better in the last few weeks, but as long as you don’t win, you still have some doubts. Winning not only opens his account, it also gives him confidence for the future”. The future for Arnaud Démare will be the Grand Prix de l’Escaut, on Wednesday.

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