While Tom Boonen has been reasserting himself in the sprints at the Tour of Qatar, French galloper Arnaud Démare has been easing his way into what is his first race of a season in which much is expected of him. Winner of 10 races last year, including a stage at the Tour of Switzerland and the inaugural RideLondon Classic. The 22-year-old FDJ.fr rider has had a couple of top 10 finishes, but has his sights set on the start of the Classics campaign at the end of this month.
Démare is set to be one part of FDJ’s three-pronged Classics attack alongside Yoann Offredo and Matthieu Ladagnous – who was set back in Qatar when he suffered a dislocated collarbone. While that pair have more freedom to roam, Démare’s brief will be to watch and wait for sprint opportunities.
“When I started training again over the winter I was already thinking about the Classics,” Démare tells L’Equipe. I want to be 100% operational for the period between Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix. For me, that’s what pro cycling is all about, that’s real cycling. I really want to ride again the top guys in world cycling at Tirreno, Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, Roubaix…”
Last year’s 12th place finish at Wevelgem and 24th in Flanders were impressive for a 21-year-old in just his second full season. Looking back, though, Démare believes he could have finished much higher in Flanders. Happy to be in among the group chasing lone leader Fabian Cancellara, he was poorly placed on the final climb and missed the acceleration at the front.
“I tried to get across but ended up between the two front groups. Even though I was on my own I managed to stay away over the seven kilometres into the finish and that evening I thought to myself that I’d had the legs to be at the front,” he says.
Although Démare believes he could be in contention during this season’s Spring Classics, he admits his other primary goal is to learn, knowing that his best years as a rider are still well ahead of him. “This winter, I got the idea fixed in my head that I had to work for the future because I’m only 22 and it is well known that riders reach maturity between 25 and 30. That is when I will attain the capacity for real excellence,” he explains.
“I’m telling myself that for now it’s all about learning, although I will look to seize opportunities, and from 25 to 30 I should be there more often contending for victory. I’ve got the mental ability to wait.”