The Frenchman, who finished second here in 2014, made it over the second and final ascent of the Kemmelberg in the front group of 23 riders, but lacked power in the sprint finish and could only manage third place behind Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors).
He suggested the difference in freshness was down to the workload they each took on in the 30 kilometres that separated the finish line from the Kemmelberg. After initially keeping himself well hidden in the group as they battled to maintain their lead of around 30 seconds over a chasing group, Démare did come through for a couple of turns. Others, he suggested, did not.
"I did turns in the finale to avoid getting caught out in a split. Other more cunning riders didn't contribute and there's no doubt they took advantage of that in the sprint," he said.
Sagan's acceleration in the final couple of hundred metres was certainly resounding. Viviani was strong, too, but was let down by his positioning. Démare, meanwhile, was unable to sprint to his full potential.
"The sprint, that's my disappointment," he said. "I lacked punch and I'm not happy with it. My legs weren't super and it's a big disappointment."
After finishing second at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and third at Milan-San Remo, it's a third Classics podium for Démare. A source of frustration, perhaps, but also confirmation of his abilities in these kinds of races.
"It's the second time I've come here going for victory, as leader of FDJ. I felt good all day, and the two decisive passages of the Kemmelberg went well. My team had worked perfectly up until that point,' he said.
"There is no reward but I can comfort myself: the legs were good."
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