It’s often complicated for youngsters to confirm their potential after a promising debut professional season, but 21-year-old Arnaud Démare started his 2013 campaign on a high note when he took second place behind André Greipel at the end of stage 1 in the Santos Tour Down Under. The Frenchman from FDJ collected the best result that he could have hoped for.
“I might have opened my sprint a bit too late but the Lotto train, which had already proven to be the strongest at the criterium on Sunday, once again rode to perfection,” Démare said. “Had I been on Greipel’s wheel, I guess I would have stayed on his wheel anyway. It came from a great work by my team, even from climbers like Arnaud Courteille who is not exactly built for that role.”
Courteille encountered different fortunes in South Australia, as he was one of the riders who crashed on the descent of Corkscrew on stage 2. He broke his left collarbone and might stay for three days in the same hospital in Adelaide where his former teammate Frédéric Guesdon was treated for a fracture of his femur one year ago.
“It’s a pity because Arnaud was going really well since we got here to Australia,” said the other Arnaud [Démare]. “On the other hand, I had doubts about myself. I didn’t handle the heat and the climate change as well as my teammates but the criterium helped me to turn the gas on. I didn’t want to come into my first World Tour race of the year in poor condition. That’s why I’ve done about 10 cyclo-cross races before I started road racing again. Last year’s early part of the season has given me some ambitions for races like Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and GP Samyn, which I won, and others.”
Under the Australian sun, Démare was talking with passion about historical and local races in Belgium. He admitted that he forgot how important it was to score points for the World Tour on the other side of the world. “That’s right, it’s great to score points from the first day, as we’ve had a difficult off-season waiting for World Tour status,” the 2011 under-23 world champion said.
“It’s nice to see such a young rider asking for responsibilities and assuming them,” said directeur sportif Yvon Madiot. “He’s truly aware of the importance of teamwork and sincerely thanks his teammates.”
Démare is highly regarded since he won six races during his first pro season, including the WorldTour classic in Hamburg, the Vattenfall Cyclassics. At the same time, FDJ developed another top sprinter in the person of Nacer Bouhanni, who preceded him on the finishing line of the French championship.
How will the team of the Madiot brothers cope with two sprinters of approximately the same age?
“It’s not that difficult because they are very different kinds of sprinters,” Yvon Madiot told Cyclingnews in Mount Barker. “One [Démare] is built for the Classics while the other one is a puncher with pure speed. They’ll begin the 2013 season on separate programmes, with Bouhanni making his debut in the Tours of Qatar and Oman prior to doing Paris-Nice, while Démare will ride Tirreno-Adriatico. They might be together at Milan-San Remo but that has yet to be decided. Something new in our team is that many of our riders put their hands up for the big races and we’re looking for candidates for the French cup races. It’s a good sign!”
Madiot explained that no decision has been taken yet as per the selections for the Grand Tours. “None of our sprinters has been designated for the Giro, the Tour or the Vuelta yet,” he said. “They’re young, so we first have to see how the season evolves. Part of our pre-season training has been focused on the lead out. We’ve hired Murilo Fisher [from Garmin-Sharp] for the final job and we’ve got specific riders for the different positions before the sprints: William Bonnet, Mickaël Delage, Laurent Mangel, Yoann Offredo, Geoffrey Soupe, Dominique Rollin, Matthieu Ladagnous and David Boucher. Our mental coach [and former coach of Le Havre and Paris Saint-Germain football teams] Denis Troch has worked a lot with them on how to divide the roles. There won’t be any clash between the interests of our two sprinters. We’re ready.”