Almost all of the focus for Tour de France stage one has been on sprinting big guns Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and André Greipel, but keep any eye out too for newly crowned French champion Arnaud Démare.
The 22-year-old FDJ.fr rider goes into his debut Tour with the aim of learning as much as he can. But Démare says he’ll be ready to take any opportunities that come his way in bunch sprints having gained a huge confidence boost from winning the French title, which put him level with Cavendish on nine wins for the season.
“I’m really looking forward to getting some experience of the Tour. I need to keep my head on my shoulders and keep my confidence levels right up as well,” he said during FDJ’s pre-Tour press conference.
“I don’t think having the French champion’s jersey on my shoulders increases the pressure. In fact, it doubles the pleasure. Having the tricolore jersey gives even more significance to my Tour debut.”
Démare refused to be drawn on specific targets beyond his stated goal of gaining experience of the world’s biggest race, but said he won’t be overawed. “I might be young but there’s no reason to put up barriers or set limits on what I can achieve. I’ll be looking for opportunities from the very first day, although my priority is to experience the Tour and learn as much as I can,” said the French champion.
“My rivals have got experience and several Tours in their legs. This is my first Tour and perhaps that experience gives them a bit more confidence. But I’ve got a great team around me, a train that knows exactly what it is doing, and I’m going to race in my usual fashion.”
He revealed he is not sure yet whether he will target the intermediate sprints as part of a potential push towards the green jersey. “I think the idea will be to avoid losing any energy at less important moments, but we’ve still got to talk within the team about whether I’ve got the ability to compete for this classification,” Démare explained.
Asked whether the high mountains could be the biggest barrier he faces, Démare, whose only previous grand tour experience was the opening two weeks of the 2012 Giro, commented: “I’m less concerned about the high mountains since I did Tirreno and the Dauphiné. The main idea of riding the Dauphiné was so that I could get some experience in the mountains.”