Amid the madness that was the aftermath of stage 4 of the Tour de France, it was easy to lose sight of the stage winner. Arnaud Démare's first Tour de France stage victory – in the French champion's jersey no less – had far less of the spotlight that it would ordinarily command as we pored over the minutiae of Peter Sagan's collision with Mark Cavendish.
Perhaps the incident – and Sagan's subsequent disqualification from the Tour – was a welcome distraction for Démare, who has himself been accused of a dangerous deviation from his own sprinting line, with fellow Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni of Cofidis complaining that he was "cut up" and nearly crashed.
"Démare's move? A manifest illustration of line deviation," wrote former pro and Eurosport commentator Matt Stephens on Twitter, while Chris Boardman described the decision to take action against Sagan and not Démare as "inconsistent".
Replays show that while Sagan and Cavendish's altercation comes about as they tracked Démare to the right-hand side of the road, Démare himself then bursts to the left. Kristoff is out in front at this point, and Démare tries to exploit a gap that opens between the Norwegian's back wheel and Bouhanni.
"It was a nervous sprint. I was in the ideal position in the final kilometres and I knew the finish by heart. But at 150 metres from the line, as I was on the wheel of Alexander Kristoff, Arnaud Démare cut me up and I touched his back wheel," explained Bouhanni.
"At that moment it was over. If I didn't brake, I'd have fallen."
Bouhanni, an old rival of Démare's from their time at FDJ, made no explicit suggestion that Démare should have been relegated.
There was extra motivation for Bouhanni as the stage finished in his home region, with Vittel a matter of kilometres from his parents' house. In any case, the fact that he was up there competing for the victory against the world's best is promising when you consider that his Tour build-up was compromised for a third year in a row, this time by a head trauma suffered at the Tour de Yorkshire.
"I really wanted to shine on home turf but I have to get rid of that disappointment – there are still plenty of sprints left," Bouhanni added.
Indeed, there are, on paper, seven more opportunities for the fast men, and Cofidis manager Yvon Sanquer happy to exercise patience, an attribute he has honed since signing Bouhanni.
"Evidently, there's huge frustration because Nacer was up there in this stage that he'd bookmarked, and he sprinted in exactly the right way," he said.
"We must now make sure the team knows its limits and how to manage its resources. That's how we're going to be able to guide him and give him the helping hand he needs to get that victory that he deserves. He's at the level where he needs to be. He was eighth in Liege and fourth in Vittel, and on both occasions he wasn't able to finish his sprint. He's in amongst it."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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