Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) was relegated to the back of the bunch on stage 5 of Paris-Nice after a jerk of the head toward Bora-Hansgrohe rider Nils Politt, that appeared to be a headbutt, as the battle for position was unfolding with less than two kilometres to go to the finish line in Bollène.
Démare came across the line in 13th, as the green-jersey-clad Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) crossed in first, but later the French champion was relegated to 117th. At 1.7 kilometres to go Démare was moving up to the front on the wheel of two teammates while Politt was drifting back from the front after having worked to position teammate Pascal Ackermann, who came third. As Démare moved past what appeared to be a headbutt was directed toward the Bora-Hansgrohe rider.
“It [the relegation] doesn’t change anything,” said Démare. “I did not make a dangerous move, I just made a move to avoid Nils Politt.”
“There have been dangerous moves against me or my teammates in other sprints on this Paris-Nice, which have not been sanctioned. That’s how it is… I respect the commissaires’ decision, they do the best they can.”
Démare wasn’t the only rider drawing attention to the moves within the sprints either, as stage winner Bennett, said he was frustrated with the tactics of others in the sprints.
“For some reason, I'm not left to follow my own wheel, guys are coming in and it seems like they just want to disrupt our sprint instead of concentrating on their own race. We don't look at anybody else, so I don't know why they're getting so fixated on us. Maybe my teammates are too strong,” said Bennett after his second stage win of the event.
Bennett also won stage 1, beating Démare to the line and leaving the French champion still looking for his first win of the season after the 29-year-old last year delivered a post-lockdown streak where he looked unbeatable. It looks like Démare is again taking a few races to find that winning form as he’ll likely now have to wait until after Paris-Nice for another opportunity, as the race now heads toward the mountains and the spotlight starts to turn on the GC contenders.
Teammate David Gaudu sits in 12th, despite crashing on stage 4 when Giro d’Italia champion Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) slipped out on a right-hand bend on the descent of Mont Brouilly and took out the Groupama-FDJ leader.
“He was obviously a bit sore after his crash yesterday, so it was quite a good day for him to recover,” said Groupama-FDJ sports director Thierry Bricaud. “Now, it’s everything for him. Tomorrow, we have an undulating terrain and the main leaders could finish together. However, we can also have a small fight in the end because some need to take back some time. Then, there will be a tough weekend.”
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