John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) won a tight final sprint at Gent-Wevelgem ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
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Young Frenchman gets confidence boost ahead of Flanders, Roubaix
A sprinter is never content with a second place finish, but almost an hour after the end of Gent-Wevelgem, Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr) was beginning to put his second place finish into perspective.
By that point, Démare had been through the podium ceremonies and a series of television interviews by the finishing line, and he had time to mull over his narrow defeat to John Degenkolb. As he soft-pedalled alone towards his team bus, Démare told Cyclingnews that the glass was half-full rather than half-empty.
"I'm very happy because second place in Gent-Wevelgem isn't nothing," Démare said. "I'm very satisfied even if there's also a little bit of frustration because you can never be happy when you finish second. Still, I'm happy with my form and I'm happy with the team, who did great work."
On Vanackerestraat, a pair of well-lubricated locals – their glasses completely empty but doubtless soon to be refilled – did a double take and shouted out Démare's name in recognition as he passed.
"There were still some very good sprinters in there at the end, so I was pretty wary," Démare said of the sprint, where – like Degenkolb – he delayed his effort until the last possible moment.
"Still, I had good legs and I believed: a sprinter always believes in his chances until he crosses the line. The circumstances played out the way they did, but I believed right until the end."
Such was the tumult in the finale that Démare had no idea that André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) had been forced out by a crash with 8 kilometres to go. "Really? I didn't know that, I'm just finding out now," he said.
Démare paid tribute to the efforts of his teammates in shepherding him over the Kemmelberg, with Yoann Offredo particularly prominent on the Kemmelberg. FDJ.fr manager Marc Madiot has always sent his teams to the Classics to race rather than simply to participate, but it seems that he is now building a team commensurate with his ambition.
"We've got a very good team and they place a lot of confidence in me even though I'm still young. Having guys like William Bonnet show such trust in me makes me very happy," said Démare, who added guiltily that his podium finish had kept them waiting on the bus past the finish line long after the other teams had driven off.
After an impressive but ultimately unfortunate showing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Démare will line up with a greater degree of confidence at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Still only 22, the former espoir world champion is aware that he has ample margin for improvement. "This result shows that I'm progressing," he said. "My form is there and I'm just going to try and keep it going until Roubaix now."
Madiot expressed regret that Bonnet's puncture in the finale cost Démare a valuable lead-out man, but he declared himself pleased with his young charge's progress in the past twelve months.
"He has gained strength, confidence and assurance," Madiot said approvingly. "This morning I knew it would be a good day just by looking at him. He morphs into another person when he enters an important race."
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