As the metres ticked down to the finish line on stage 4 of the Vuelta a España Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) felt like this was the day where he would complete his set of Grand Tour victories with a first Vuelta a España win, though Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) had other ideas.
In the final 50 metres on the uphill drag to the line Jakobsen made his move and nipped past the charging Démare making what could have been a perfectly played hand for Groupama-FDJ ‘almost perfect’ instead.
"Second... I'm obviously disappointed,” said Démare in a statement. “We knew that this finish slightly uphill could suit me, and that I am capable of doing well on this kind of final. We managed it well. We had decided to take control, and we did.”
The team led into the final corner, positioning Démare to launch powerfully into the final 100 metres.
“We knew we had to start the downhill in the front," Démare said. "There were quite a few turns and we knew it would be very fast. I was in a good position and the guys did a great job. We launched the sprint like we wanted to. I started my sprint strong, and I could see myself winning.
“I couldn't see anyone behind and then Jakobsen came very fast from the back. He was just stronger this time, so I don’t have too many regrets.”
What Démare does have though, is an eye on stage 5, a flat 184.4 kilometres to Albacete which looks like it could be another perfect opportunity for the sprinters and therefore a chance to try and build on the positives from stage 4.
“We controlled well all day, the guys protected us from the wind to keep the train as fresh as possible,” Démare said. “Everyone did a good job. Today, we also communicated much better, especially with the trajectories and to make sure that everyone was on the wheel. À bloc for tomorrow!"
The Groupama-FDJ rider already has five stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and two in the Tour de France so on his debut Vuelta a España he wants to complete the set by adding a victory at the missing Grand Tour. The second place on stage 4, while not the desired outcome, was at least just one step away from it.
"It was almost perfect,” said Groupama-FDJ director Franck Pineau. “However, we don’t get the win and only the win matters.
“The team did a great job today, that’s what we need to remember. There was just someone stronger. Even when the job is very well done, it's still cycling. It just shows that it’s not easy to get a win. The guys meant business today, Nono [Démare] is going strong and we have to believe in him. Also, when you’re showing what we showed today, it brings even more motivation. The set-up is good, the guys are riding well, and we must keep this momentum!"
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