Groupama-FDJ sprinter Arnaud Démare used his winner's press conference after stage 10 of the Giro d'Italia to criticise fellow fastman Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) for what he described as "excessive confidence and a bit of arrogance."
However, Bora-Hansgrohe dismissed the idea of any real underlying tension between the two riders, with director Christian Pomer suggesting it's natural for sprinters to rival each other ahead of a sprint, but then congratulate one another later on.
"Before a sprint, they are like boxers," he told Cyclingnews before saying that Démare's win was "a well-deserved."
Démare said in his press conference that the two had had an exchange of words after the first intermediate sprint of the stage, where the Frenchman outstripped Ackermann to take three points to the German's two.
"He asked me why I'd done that if he was so far ahead in the overall [points] classification," Démare claimed in his stage winner's press conference. "But a Grand Tour is long and you have to stay humble. It's his first three week stage race, he doesn't know yet how he'll get on in the mountain stages and he should stay calm."
Démare, who is now just one point behind the German, also expressed sympathy for his Ackermann, who crashed badly with one kilometre to go. "Unfortunately he's had a bad one," he said.
According to Bora-Hansgrohe management, Ackermann will be able to continue.
"Pascal has no broken bones or anything," Bora-Hansgrohe's Pomer told Cyclingnews. "He does have a lot of bruises and abrasion, and he looks really terrible."
Ackermann will start the Giro's stage 11 on Thursday Pomer said.
"The team doctor's first reaction is that he thinks he will able to race until Verona. But personally I think that's a very optimistic point of view. He came down really hard."
As for Démare's comments about Ackermann, Pomer played down any kind of more serious disagreement between the two, saying that any possible polemica was simply due to the heat of the moment and had no further importance.
"I think it's normal that there's a lot of tension between sprinters, and it's not war between those guys," he told Cyclingnews. "They are like boxers before the sprint and it was maybe Pascal's intention to play a bit with him. I think it's good, it has to be like that."
Pomer also had fulsome praise both for Démare and for Groupama-FDJ, saying, "I have to congratulate Arnaud, he had a fantastic victory today."
"And in my opinion, or in our [Bora-hansgrohe's] opinion, they [Groupama-FDJ] really deserved this. They are a team that are always contributing, always helping to make the bunch sprint happen in every single stage and it was a well-deserved victory for a great sprinter."
Now riding his third Giro d'Italia, this was Démare's first win in the Italian Grand Tour and his first of the 2019 season, too.
"We knew it was going to be a very fast sprint because it was a short stage, straight after the rest day and completely flat. We had to be ahead all the team," Démare said. "My teammates did great work and I had the strength to go for it from a long way out."
Démare said that the last kilometre crash didn't affect him because his team was ahead of it. "I heard it, on my left, but I did the maximum I could to stay focussed, so I forgot about it."
After confirming that he will continue through to Verona, the 28-year-old brushed aside complaints from some fans that it had been a "boring Giro", so far, saying that "people want spectacular racing, but these long stages wear us out. This first week has been really long, a lot of kilometres."
He also added with dry humour, "Maybe it didn't look so bad on the TV when [Tom] Dumoulin Team Sunweb fell, but it certainly felt bad on the inside. And we're human, we need to recover sometimes."
Démare pointed out that the rain that has dogged the entire Giro d'Italia has made it even tougher, with a very heavy shower falling just a few minutes after the stage finish in Modena, and temperatures plummeting to seven or eight degrees at the finish. "It's not that straightforward," he concluded.
Démare certainly made his first victory of 2019 look straightforward though, motoring past the opposition in the finishing kilometre to triumph in imperious style. The season, though, has been anything but simple for Démare, who fell ill half-way through the spring and whose Classics campaign all but went up in smoke as a result.
"I haven't had many opportunities to sprint this year," Démare said by way of explanation. "After the Tour of the Algarve and Paris-Nice, I ended up getting sick, and although I tried to go back there to the Classics, I was still building my form all the way through. That's why doing well in the Giro was really important for me."
Démare's next opportunity to take another victory will come on Wednesday, and with no clear dominator in the bunch sprints yet - so far there have been four different winners in the five flat stages - the sparks will surely fly again. Then it is into the mountains, and a very different Giro gets underway.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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