Reigning world U23 champion Arnaud Demare has enjoyed a breakout season in the professional ranks this year, with victories at the Tour of Qatar, Le Samyn and Cholet-Pays de Loire offering exciting evidence of his potential. The 20-year-old FDJ-BigMat rider is widely seen as one of the next great hopes of French cycling and his progress has enabled him make his Grand Tour bow at the 2012 Giro d'Italia.
While on the whole he is really enjoying the experience, at times his lungs and his legs aren't. Back-to-back stages in the hills over the weekend took their toll, with Demare admitting that he was hurting badly and taken by surprise at the fatigue he felt. And he knows that worse is yet to come.
"I do not even want to imagine how it will happen in the high mountains in the coming days," he said in his regular column in L'Equipe. "On Sunday, it was really terrible and I have never known anything like it during my career - it was the worst day.
"I had no strength in my legs and miles seemed very long. Even though I was warned of the difficulty of the mountain stages in Italy, I never expected to be so surprised by it. It's so different from other races, the scenario has nothing to do. Normally, I might have been reassured to see sprinters like me and Mark Cavendish in the same group. But now I realize that if they are there, it's mostly because they know how to manage after the Giro."
Demare revealed that without the help of his teammates, who at times have pulled him along physically and mentally, he may have crumbled.
"They do more than accompany me, they talk a lot to make sure I don't lose morale," he said. "My biggest fear is not to be in good spirits on the bike. But I also know that these are inevitable moments on a Grand Tour, the choke points. I learn simply to hurt."