Arnaud Démare (FDJ) has said that he will race more sparingly in 2018 in order to remain fresh for his major objectives in the spring Classics and the Tour de France.
The Frenchman will begin his season later than usual in 2018, and will eschew the Etoile des Bessèges, preferring instead to kick off his new campaign at the Volta ao Algarve, which takes place from February 14-18.
"Watching the sprinters raise their arms in Australia has given me the desire [to race], but the objective is to reach the Classics with a lot of freshness," Démare said in an interview with the FDJ team website.
"These past seasons, and even though it’s been my objective, I’ve arrived in the period of Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix feeling a mental fatigue that I absolutely want to be rid of in 2018."
Like his stable-mate Thibaut Pinot, Démare will follow the recommendation of FDJ’s coaching staff and reduce his diet of racing days in the opening half of the season in a bid to maintain sharpness for July.
"I agreed straightaway with the programme proposed by the staff. It’s the same for the Tour de France," Démare said. "Guys like [Michael] Matthews and [Marcel] Kittel get there with very few racing days. I had a third more than them in 2017. I want to concentrate on the essential, which is what the team wants as well.
"In 2016, I needed confidence and it was good to win at the Tour Méditerranéen but now I feel very confident and I don’t necessarily need to raise my arms immediately."
After the Volta ao Algarve, Démare will line out at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, and Paris-Nice, before riding Milan-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
Twenty-one years have now passed since FDJ directeur sportif Frédéric Guesdon became the last French winner of Paris-Roubaix. Démare has long been tipped as a potential winner of the Hell of the North, and his Milan-San Remo win two years ago raised expectations still further, but he pointed out that victory in cobbled Classics is usually the preserve of experienced riders.
Démare won the sprint for 6th place at the 2017 Paris-Roubaix, his best result in the race to date. He placed second to Guillaume Van Keirsbulck in the junior edition of the race in 2009, and took fourth behind his new FDJ teammate Ramon Sinkeldam in the under-23 Paris-Roubaix in 2011.
"I’m going to keep progressing by continuing to do what I’m doing. We’re not all like Peter Sagan, who can battle with the champions at 22 years of age," Démare said.
"I’m 26 years old now, I can cope well with big workloads, I recover well and I know that I progressed well in that regard in 2017. But there’s no rule: Greg Van Avermaet exploded at 29 or 30 years of age."