Arnaud Démare (FDJ) will begin his reduced early-season programme on Wednesday at the Volta ao Algarve as the Frenchman gears up for another assault at the spring Classics and then the Tour de France.
The 2016 Milan-San Remo winner passed on racing the traditional season opener, Etoile de Bessèges, in order to save his legs for Algarve, and despite not having any racing miles in his legs so far this year, the 26-year-old arrives in Portugal full of optimism. However, while he is excited, the Frenchman has not raced since the two Canadian WorldTour races last September and admits that a slight amount of nerves have crept in.
"I'm super happy to finally start this new season. It's a mix of excitement and apprehension because winter is like a complete reset. It's a blank page I have to start writing," he said in a statement released by his team.
Démare raced the Volta ao Algarve in 2017 but failed to win a stage. He was competitive in two of the bunch sprints, and will be hoping for at least the same when the race starts on Wednesday with a stage ideal for the fast men of the peloton.
"Concerning Algarve, of course, I would love to win for my first race but I have to be patient and keep in mind that last year, I did not get any success on the race but it did not prevent me from being very competitive in Paris-Nice. With the group, we'll try to focus on the reflexes and on cohesion."
Démare arrives at the race with a robust leadout train that includes new signing Ramon Sinkeldam from Sunweb. The Frenchman has spent the first few weeks of 2018 training at home and riding recon over several spring classics.
"Even if those last days in France were complicated in terms of weather, we had the chance to train with the team on a specific camp with track sessions and a recon of some of the Classics routes like Paris-Roubaix and Nieuwsblad. It was a good way to stay focused and to look to this Flanders period ahead of us. Good work plus a good recovery equals I'm ready to start racing."
FDJ for the Volta ao Algarve: Davide Cimolai, Mickaël Delage, Arnaud Démare, Jacopo Guarnieri, Ignatas Konovalovas, Olivier Le Gac, and Ramon Sinkeldam.