After following up his recent overall victory at the Four Days of Dunkirk with another GC success, this time in his "home" Tour de Picardie, FDJ.fr sprinter Arnaud Démare is turning his sights towards his Tour de France debut.
The 22-year-old Frenchman says his goal in July will be a stage win and firmly believes he has the ability to pull this off. He has told L'Equipe that this will a difficult proposition, but added that he believes he knows how to beat Mark Cavendish.
Asked about his chances of beating the British sprinter, Démare said: "It was only the start of the season, but at the Tour of the Algarve I was already aware that there is a way to beat him…"
Démare's victory in Picardie, where he won two of the three stages as well as the overall, gave him further reason for optimism with regard to the Tour. Marcel Kittel won the title last year, while Kittel's team-mate John Degenkolb won it the year before. Both of the Germans went on to win multiple grand tour stages in the wake of their Picardie success, Kittel at the Tour and Degenkolb at the Vuelta.
"They took this path and that gives me a huge amount of ambition. I will go to the Tour with the objective of winning a stage even though I will perhaps end up being disappointed because there will be such huge competition," said Démare. "You can't win sprints every day, but if there is an opportunity I know that it is feasible."
He explained his self-belief has been boosted by his growing capacity in the mountains. “"They don't particularly frighten me. I could see at Tirreno that I had progressed when compared to the  Giro. I'm even starting to recuperate when I'm in the gruppetto in the mountains, which is also a good sign," he said.
The French sprinter's successes at the weekend put him level with his FDJ.fr team-mate Nacer Bouhanni on seven wins for the season, one behind Cavendish and Alejandro Valverde, who are currently the most prolific winners in the peloton. Reaching this mark on his home roads gave Démare particular pleasure.
"I really enjoyed riding in front of my fans in the sun. It was super," he said. "I went through the villages where I used to win when I was a youngster. So many memories came back to me."
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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