The French men’s team for the Olympic road race lacked a true favourite for Saturday’s 250km road race but with the young neo-professional Arnaud Démare selected for the four-man national team, they were quietly confident of a result if the finale came down to a bunch sprint.
Without a sprinter like Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) or André Greipel (Germany) who have proven themselves at events like the world championships, the French were happy to send riders into the breakaway and leave Démare to wait for the assumed bunch sprint.
French national time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel infiltrated the late breakaway however, lacking the sprinting prowess to compete with Alexander Kristoff (Norway) and Taylor Phinney (USA) to name a few, he would end the day in 20th place.
Back in the main field and still nearly one minute behind with less than 10km to go, Démare was left to sprint for 27th place – at best. His overall result would not seem impressive on paper but considering his relative position, he can leave London proudly. Démare finished fourth in the bunch sprint, led by André Greipel (Germany), Tom Boonen (Belgium) and Mark Cavendish (Great Britain).
“It is not the same when you sprint for a place of honor,” he told L’Equipe regarding his performance. “However, this is a great experience. I got chills throughout the race.”
The young Frenchman and last year’s U23 world champion felt the result could have been a little different if the bunch was sprinting for the win but says Great Britain just didn’t have enough to bring back the 26-rider leading group.
“The British may be overestimated by letting the world know their intentions and wanting to save Cavendish by climbing tempo. In order to bring back the large group we had to ride at 70km/h. When many of the strongest riders were in the breakaway, no one wanted to help. So they rested on the British who have the endurance to ride the front and wait for the breakaway to become tired,” he said.