Arnaud Démare is now a “jackpot” specialist! On Sunday, the French champion only needed to grab one second to win the Tour Poitou-Charentes en Nouvelle-Aquitaine’s overall classification. He did a lot better than that. Like in the Tour de Wallonie lately, the sprinter achieved a splendid double whammy on the last racing day: the stage win and the general classification as a bonus. He now records no less than nine victories this season, making him the rider with most victories since the season restart.

“We were ready to give up the stage victory”, Frédéric Guesdon

Entering the last stage of the Tour Poitou-Charentes in second position overall, just one second behind the leader and yesterday’s time trial winner Josef Cerny (CCC), Arnaud Démare and the Groupama-FDJ cycling team knew exactly what to do: competing in the first intermediate sprint, located after 14 kilometers. “We neutralized all the attacks, like we wanted to”, explained Frédéric Guesdon. “There were small ones at the start but everyone quickly understood that we would not let a breakaway go. It was eventually quite easy to control. Team CCC didn’t even try. It must be said that the all-flat terrain was not really suitable for attacks”. Usually up front in the last few kilometers, Arnaud Démare’s lead-out train was, for this occasion, put into place after only few minutes of racing. “And we took 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the sprint,” Frédéric explained. “Arnaud came first, ahead of Ramon and Jacopo. The race leader tried to sprint but took no bonus. So we were in the lead for two seconds in the virtual GC at that point.”

Then, the instructions were just as clear for the French champion and his teammates. “We let a not really dangerous breakaway go”, continued Frédéric. “The guys controlled the break composition perfectly. Five riders went clear and the best one overall [Jérémy Leveau] was 3’40 back. It was perfect. We were happy if the breakaway would take the bonuses. We know an accident can occur really fast… We didn’t want to take any risks and we were even ready to give up the stage victory. So we controlled just a bit and then other teams came along because they were interested in winning the stage, such as B&B Hotels-Vital Concept and Bahrain-Merida. Slowly, we therefore got back to the leaders”. Starting the last lap around Poitiers, fourteen kilometers from the finish, the peloton was just 35 seconds from the quintet. “We got a bit scared because there was the last intermediate sprint with 10k to go, and we thought it could come back all together”, added Frédéric. “We were ready to refocus on this intermediate sprint rather than the final one, but in the end, the bunch didn’t come back on time”.

“It’s a great way to end this extraordinary month of August”, Arnaud Démare

At this point, Iljo Keisse (Deceuninck-Quick Step) got rid of his breakaway companions to make a solo attempt towards the finish. His advantage was still about twenty seconds with three kilometers to go, but the field eventually brought him back in the dying moments. “We came back on the last leader in the last kilometre”, Frédéric said. “We absolutely had to be well positioned at the flame rouge today and the guys did that well. They were therefore able to set off perfectly for the sprint. Arnaud’s three lead-out guys hadn’t pulled all day, so they were fresh for the final, and they’re also in good shape. I think Arnaud won quite easily”. “In my head, with 5 kilometers to go, it was impossible to go for the stage win”, said the French champion afterwards. “Keisse still had 50 seconds, but it was a very fast day on the bike and he died in the finale. We caught him with one kilometre to go and our train was already up and running with Ramon and Jacopo. We were able to do our sprint and it was a great victory, clear and evident, by one or two bike lengths. That makes it 8 and 9, at the same time, that’s awesome! It’s a great way to end this extraordinary month of August, during which the entire team proved to be exceptional”.

Arnaud Démare and his entourage will take a break before making their return to the Tour of Luxembourg in mid-September. With nine victories in one month of racing, the French Champion made quite an impression in this season restart. “He may have more wins than defeats in August,” smiles Frédéric. “To be more serious, t’s great, especially since they go into a break now. So we end this first sequence on a good note and we’ll start the second one very motivated as well. It’s perfect. Arnaud has not had an easy start to the season, with the confinement on the UAE Tour, confinement in France and his scaphoid fracture, but he started again from scratch and trained super well. He arrived very motivated in August with a strong desire to win. He immediately showed how strong he was, so the group around him felt compelled to be up to the task. When you have such a strong leader, it gives everyone a boost”.

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