Arnaud Démare in his sixth Monument overcame early setbacks at Paris-Roubiax to win the bunch sprint for twelfth place in the second group to finish after Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) rode away for an impressive solo victory.
For 22-year-old Démare, the race marked his best ever finish at a Monument and on the day he was also the best placed Frenchman and fastest FDJ.fr rider across the 257km which constitutes the Queen of the Classics.
On the eve of the race, Démare had told reporters that: "My goal is to gain experience and stay in contact as best I can and for as long as possible with the strongest riders, people like Cancellara and Boonen," Démare said. "I'll fight to stay up there for as long as I can."
Arguably, he succeeded in his ambitions.
"It was a great experience," Démare said after finishing the race. "I always remained in contact with the best, always in the top 30. I felt that the [Camphin] sector would be decisive, which I anticipated.
"Then I thought my group would get organised but, I was probably the only one to believe [it would]."
For FDJ.fr the day started well when David Boucher made his way into the early break but he suffered a puncture at few hundred meters before the trench of Wallers-Arenberg, losing contact with his companions. Boucher attempted to latch back on to the leaders but was held up at a train crossing, halting his momentum.
Back in the main bunch, Démare was trying to get over two punctures and a fall and thanks to the help of Mickael Delage, he made his way back to the head of the peloton. With a touch under 70km left to race, FDJ rolled the dice again as Mathieu Ladagnous launched an attack which was followed by several riders including Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).
With William Bonnet and Yoann Offredo also present in the ever thinning main group, group of fifty riders, Démare's day looked to be almost over with punctures in quick succession for his teammates.
Démare ultimately was unable to launch his own decisive attack to solo away or make it across to the select first group but for the former-U23 world champion his sensations on the pave were comforting for chasing future success at Roubaix.
"I finished in twelfth place but it is with a feeling that I didn't give it my all. I can just say that I gained confidence for the next edition."
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