The Groupama-FDJ cycling team’s lead-out train was right on time on Monday, on stage 2 of the UAE Tour, which proved to be very slow at some points. The mass sprint, however, was once again quite hectic, but Arnaud Démare’s teammates perfectly managed to position the sprinter in the last kilometre. Unfortunately, the former French champion was unable to launch as he desired to and then had to settle for fifth place on the line. Next sprint in three days!

“They were up there in the key moments”, Sébastien Joly

On paper, the second stage of the UAE Tour seemed even easier than the first one, due to a completely flat course. Nevertheless, an expected guest was supposed to join the party: the wind. Therefore, everyone was very careful starting the day’s 176 kilometres. A Gazprom-Rusvelo’s trio (Pavel Kochetkov, Michael Kukrle and Dmitry Strakhov) was certainly able to establish itself at the front of the race in the beginning of the stage, but it was not long until it got lively within the bunch. “It was a particular stage as we went all around Abu Dhabi, and in the first part, we headed south with a three-quarter tail wind, or even a cross wind”, said Sébastien Joly. “The start was therefore extremely nervous. The roads may be wide, the peloton was still all stretched out and it almost broke at one point”. A few teams indeed tried to create echelons, but this never proved successful. “It was a much more tiring day than yesterday with the risk of echelons”, said Arnaud Démare. “We didn’t know when it was going to happen. At the start of the stage, the bunch split at some points, but it always came back together. It was a bit stressful”. “When we got to the feeding zone, we took a front wind and it suddenly settled down a little bit”, added Sébastien.

The three fugitives were able to regain a two-minute lead, but the peloton easily caught them just over thirty-five kilometres from the finish. A very slow pace then lasted for nearly fifteen kilometres. “It was certainly a bit unusual, but all in all it was quite logical with such a strong head wind and knowing that there was no longer any need to chase the breakaway,” explained Sébastien. “This peaceful sequence was eventually understandable. Our guys remained calm and that also allowed us to regain our place at the front”. The pace eventually picked up entering the last twenty kilometres, with Clément Davy pulling although he suffered a crash beforehand, from which he got out ok. “In the final, the guys were really up there in the key moments that we had spotted, whether with Matteo and Clément at first, or even with Ignatas who was doing much better than yesterday,” added Sébastien. The Groupama-FDJ train was thus able to always keep its place in the first quarter of the peloton. It then momentarily waited before coming back up in the wake of Miles Scotson entering the last kilometre.

“A perfect train”, Arnaud Démare

We really did a great job”, said Arnaud. “The guys were patient, we made the right choice to wait, and we chose the right timing in the last kilometre. It was really good “. After the Australian rider, Ramon Sinkeldam took over at the head of the peloton and then Jacopo Guarnieri dropped off Arnaud Démare for the final sprint. “I couldn’t see the line and I waited a bit to launch my sprint”, said Arnaud. “That made me lose places today. I felt good physically, but when I could finally do my effort, it was too late. I probably waited too much today, we missed a great opportunity but we really had a perfect train. The guys did a great job.” With the doors closing at the worst moment, the Frenchman could not do better than fifth in the sprint, which Mark Cavendish won. “We found a good setting today and it was really nice to see our four guys at the front in the last hundreds of metres”, concluded Sébastien. “Everything may not be perfect yet, but it only was the second day of racing for the train. When we see the improvement between yesterday and today, we can hope for great things for the next two sprint stages. We were obviously a bit disappointed at the finish, but we were also satisfied with the work done as we can see that things are going in the right direction”. The next sprint is scheduled on Thursday on the UAE Tour. In the meantime, a time trial and a summit finish are looming over the next two days.

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