A challenge strewn Alpine test on stage 9 of the Tour de France caught a number of riders out and Arnaud Démare was among them after failing to make the time cut. Despite the disappointment of an early end to a Tour that didn’t go to plan from the beginning, the Groupama-FDJ rider said he was leaving with no regrets after having done all he could to get over the line quickly enough.
There were no shortage of riders pushing to reach the finish on the wet 145-kilometre stage to Tignes, which saw the peloton tackle five classified climbs.
To stay in the race till the first rest day riders had to make it within 37:20 of stage winner Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën) and while there were some of the flatland favouring sprinters that made it with minutes to spare, such as green jersey leader Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic), others such as André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) cut it to within a minute while Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) was in a group of four that would have been in trouble if his teammate O’Connor had been even a few seconds faster.
Démare and lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri were among the Cavendish group earlier in the stage but were dropped, riding alone and ultimately ended up among the seven that finished outside the time limit, with another three riders – including stage 3 winner Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) – also abandoning on the course.
"I have no regrets, I gave my best during the day,” Démare said in a statement. “Since the crash, I am here but not at 100 per cent. On the Tour, it has a cost.”
Démare said the difficult weather conditions made it a particularly draining day and it would have taken him being at 100 percent to make up the extra four minutes needed to continue on in the Tour, which has so far been a challenging one for the team.
“It didn't start well from the beginning with Ignatas Konovalovas falling on the first day, me crashing in the first sprint, we had to get back into it. Nothing went the way we wanted it to. We didn't have the plans we imagined,” Démare said. “Many people are sadder than I am. I'm not sad. I gave it my best shot, there's nothing more I can do.”
The departure of Konovalovas after that first day and now Démare and Guarnieri means Groupama-FDJ are down to five riders. The team came into the Tour de France with a double-pronged attack, supporting overall contender David Gaudu, who is currently sitting ninth on the overall classification, and Démare for the sprints.
“They are very disappointed, of course, as are we all, especially as we were expecting sprints on Tuesday and Thursday,” said sports director Frédéric Guesdon.
“Arnaud had not been able to express himself since the beginning of the Tour and he was expecting a lot. In the end, he leaves this Tour without having been able to show his worth and that's what is all the more disappointing."
Démare, who has already had eight wins so far this year, is leaving the Tour without having even made it to the podium. The last time he raced the Tour, in 2018, he won a stage, stood on the podium another three times and finished third in the points classification. This time his best result was a fourth place at Châteauroux on stage 6.
“That's the sport,” he said. “We know that in the Tour, it's do or die, but I'll get back up."
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