Considering the large and qualitative field of sprinters in the UAE Tour, a fierce fight was expected this Sunday in the opening stage. And it did happen. Just back to competition, Arnaud Démare chose the wheel of Sam Bennett and the Deceuninck-Quick Step lead-out train with a kilometre go. For once, it did not pay off, and the Frenchman was therefore unable to really join the fight for victory, which was got by Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe). More opportunities will follow in the next days.
“The strategy went perfectly until the flamme rouge” Sébastien Joly
For a few days, the United Arab Emirates become a real kingdom for sprinters. Almost all the big names have decided to join the second WorldTour stage race of the season. As a consequence, the breakaways have no chance of making it all the way, but that does not prevent some from going up front to have some fun. In this first stage, two duos, one from Gazprom-Rusvelo and the other one from Vini Zabù-KTM, took the lead early in the stage, including former Groupama-FDJ development team’s rider, Cristian Scaroni. However, together with Nikolay Cherkasov, Leonardo Tortomasi and Veljko Stojnic, the Italian never had the opportunity to hope for success. The sprinter teams controlled the breakaway all day long until the final fight.
With about fifteen kilometers to go, shortly after having caught the last leader, the tension went up and the Groupama-FDJ team decided to really set up. “In terms of strategy, we wanted to change something, said one of the group’s sports directors, Sébastien Joly. Miles Scotson usually rides in front of the bunch, but since Arnaud was more of an outsider today, the idea was to work only in the end. So we wanted to position Miles after Ignatas. It was actually quite a good thing to do as Miles is going very well and he was very happy that we could give him this role, which is more stimulating for him. For us, it’s also important to have someone between Ignatas and Ramon, and they indeed took Arnaud’s lead-out to perfection, as we mentioned, with less than a kilometre to go. The strategy went perfectly until then.”
“We can have a nice surprise tomorrow”, Sébastien Joly
The last few hundred meters, however, did not go as good for Arnaud Démare. “After the last roundabout, the guys moved towards the right and were a bit blocked, added Sébastien. Arnaud chose Sam Bennett’s wheel and it was not without consequence since the Irishman missed his sprint. As he’s concerned, Arnaud finished eleventh. There were mixed feelings at the finish. There was some disappointment because an eleventh place is not what we aim for, but they still managed to set some good things up. It’s a good race to do it. Then, sprinting is usually a bit random, but if it was a real lottery, we wouldn’t have bothered to come. “
There will be more opportunities in the coming days, and perhaps even this Monday with a well-known finish at Hatta Dam, on 500-meter “wall”. “There are now three stages left for the sprinters, but there is already the stage of tomorrow, confirmed Sébastien. It’s hard, it’s quite special, but we can also have a nice surprise. I think Arnaud is keen to test himself on this kind of profile. We’ll see what will happen there.”