Less than a week after the end of the Tour de France, the WorldTour calendar resumed on two fronts this Saturday. On the Tour of Poland, an anticipated bunch sprint concluded the first stage in Lublin, where the lively final prevented Arnaud Démare from fighting for the win. Too far behind when the sprint started, the Frenchman had to settle for ninth place in this opening stage. Another opportunity should come tomorrow.
After a month without competition, Arnaud Démare returned to racing in Kielce on Saturday, for the start of the Tour of Poland. For his first participation in ten years, the former French champion came with his train and also with Bruno Armirail and Quentin Pacher. His teammates had some work to do already from the first stage as the day’s course was mainly flat, despite a few hills halfway through. “A bunch sprint was really possible at the finish”, said Sébastien Joly. “Therefore, we asked Bruno to control with the Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl and Jumbo-Visma teams. He really did a very good job. He pulled for more than two hundred kilometres, and above all, he was still there in the final. It shows that he managed his effort well.” The breakaway, made of Kamil Malecki (Lotto-Soudal), Sam Brand (Novo Nordisk), Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X), Patryk Stosz and Mateusz Grabis (Poland) benefited from a maximum lead of six minutes very early in the race before the peloton easily managed the gap. About fifty kilometres from the finish, the gap barely was of one minute, leaving little hope of success to the fugitives. The pack nevertheless calmed down a little and eventually captured the last man standing less than ten kilometres from the line.
“The good news is that everyone stayed on their bike”, Sébastien Joly
The fight for positions ahead of the expected sprint then started. Bruno Armirail gave his last turn before letting Ignatas Konovalovas and Miles Scotson bring the team up in the first positions until the last two kilometres. “The train set up, with Bram in Ramon’s usual place, meaning between Miles and Jacopo”, added Sébastien. “The specificity we noted in the briefing was the long boulevard before turning right with 800 meters to go, prior to the final small climb. Until then, the guys really did well. Then, we got a little boxed in at that point. Arnaud was a bit too far at the bottom of the climb to be able to get a big result on the line. He managed to move up a few places, but it was not enough to fight with the best”. In this unusual sprint won by Olav Kooij, the Groupama-FDJ sprinter had to settle for ninth. “It’s still a good start for a returning race”, said Sébastien. “There was good teamwork, the guys managed to find each other. The last boulevard was a bit special, and we got lucky as there was a crash in the middle of the bunch and we got through it. The good news is that everyone stayed on their bike, and we will start tomorrow with the goal of victory again”.