After two stages wins in the past two editions of the Tour de France, Arnaud Démare will return to the Giro d'Italia in 2019, with the Groupama-FDJ team confirming their 2019 plans at a team presentation on Monday.
Démare rode the Tour de France alongside Thibaut Pinot in 2014 and 2015, but the two team leaders’ programmes diverged in 2016. Démare, a sprinter, rode the Giro in 2016 and missed the Tour. When Pinot, a climber and general classification rider, seemingly hit a wall at the Tour, Démare stepped back in as leader at the Grande Boucle in 2017. He has won a stage in each of the past two editions while Pinot rediscovered himself in Italy at the Giro.
After winning Il Lombardia and two stages at the Vuelta a España at the end of last year, Pinot will return to lead the line at the Tour in 2019. There was room in the team for Démare, but not for his lead-out train.
"I'm not disappointed at all. It was a choice on the part of myself and the team to go to the Giro. Honestly, it's perfect," said Démare, according to Ouest France.
"It allows me to keep a team around me, too. At the Tour de France the team will be more oriented around Thibaut Pinot, so we made that choice in order to keep a lead-out train with me in Italy."
The other factor was the parcours of the two Grand Tours. At the 2019 Tour there's not as much on offer for the sprinters, and when there are opportunities they'll have to work hard for them
"It's a relatively demanding route, where there's a mountain stage one day, a sprint the next, then a medium mountain stage. I'd be shifting gears the whole time, and that doesn't suit me. Honestly, if I go to the Tour de France, it's to win. That's not to say I didn't feel capable this year but the terrain wasn't favourable. It's for that reason as well, that I preferred to go to the Giro. When the team said that's what they preferred too, it was clear."
Démare twice finished runner-up in stages at the 2016 Giro, but has never won one. As he noted, the change in programme also opens other doors, with a debut at the Vuelta a España on the cards later in the season. The Spanish Grand Tour could help Démare build up to the World Championships and a Yorkshire course that could come down to a reduced bunch sprint.
Démare will start his season later this month at the Volta ao Algarve before doing the 'opening weekend' in Belgium followed by Paris-Nice and a full spring classics campaign, including Milan-San Remo - where he won in 2016 - the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. That leaves him with one month before the start of the Giro in Bologna on May 11.