And that makes it seven! On stage 2 of the Tour Poitou-Charentes on Friday, Arnaud Démare grabbed his seventh victory since the season restarted a month ago. Following on from his great past few weeks and his close victory on the opening stage, the Groupama-FDJ’s sprinter took a convincing win today. He also strengthens his first place on GC before a crucial day on Saturday, which will feature a road stage in the morning and a time trial in the afternoon.

Although the breakaway took shape after only five minutes on Friday in the second stage leading to Echiré, the start was not that peaceful. “We were quite worried about the wind today, because it was quite straight and there was a strong side wind at the start,” explained Frédéric Guesdon. “In the end, there was a lot of tension for nothing as it never really split. It was still a hard race and some may probably have felt it at the back. As far as we were concerned, we had decided to race in front, since we had the leader’s jersey and wanted the stage win. We always had to be careful and the nervousness made it quite difficult at some points”. While Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Damien Gaudin (Total-Direct Energie) built up a lead of three to four minutes, Groupama-FDJ with Hugo Page and the Deceuninck-Quick Step came to set up a decent pace at the head of the bunch. “When it was not a side wind, it was a tailwind, so the average speed might be quite high,” said Frédéric Guesdon.

“We put everything back in order”, Arnaud Démare

The peloton proved to be cautious today and came back only two minutes behind the breakaway with 50 kilometers to go. The gap even reduced to one minute when they first crossed the line, 33 kilometers from the finish. “There was a real risk of echelons, so we remained very attentive”, said Arnaud Démare. “It got tense at times, but it never broke apart. There wasn’t a strong enough team. We wanted to save ourselves for the final, but there was not enough wind to make it hard either. In any case, Hugo and Kono made a big effort to get back on the break that included some big rouleurs.” Gaudin and Gougeard, the last men standing, were then caught with about ten kilometers to cover. As on the day before, Groupama-FDJ kept control in anticipation of the sprint, which proved to be much better prepared than on the opening day. “It went very well,” confirmed Frédéric. “Ramon was feeling a little better than yesterday. He wasn’t happy with himself after the first stage. He had a good night’s sleep and I think he was much better today. So it worked as they wanted”.

The French champion, the lead-out train’s last piece, echoed his sports director. “In the finale, we put everything back in order, as it should be”, he said. “It was not like yesterday, where we kind of failed. Today we really did a perfect lead-out train. It was a bit of a rough finish, so we took the lead with two kilometers to go with Benjamin and Miles, who did a big job. We passed the roundabouts in the first positions, very quickly, and we could even come out of them with a small gap behind Ramon. Then, Jacopo launched me into the last turn, at 300 meters. We were 1-2 in the corner and there was already a small gap. I did my sprint and it was another victory at the end. It’s perfect”. “We were happy yesterday, but the guys were still disappointed with their work in the finale,” added Frédéric. “Today everything went well so they were much happier at the finish.”

“With the shape Arnaud’s got at the moment…”, Frédéric Guesdon

That makes it then two out of two for Arnaud Démare, who is again expected tomorrow morning for a likely sprint finish at Jaunay-Marigny, after almost a hundred kilometers of racing. These hundred kilometers will be followed by another 22,5 in individual time trial in the afternoon. “Tomorrow morning’s stage suits Arnaud again, so if we can win it, we’ll do everything we can to do so”, says Frédéric. “Then he will have to do a great time trial, but with the shape he’s got at the moment, he shouldn’t be far anyway. If he can win in the morning, that would already give him about twenty seconds on his closest rival and he shouldn’t waste that much time on 22 kilometers.” Also, the team has another guy on GC with Benjamin Thomas, silver medallist in the last French time trial championship, currently sitting sixth overall at 18 seconds. “Benji has also grabbed a few seconds here and there, so he is also in contention for the general”, concluded Arnaud Démare, who’s been a winner seven times over the last 23 days.

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