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Démare wins opening stage at La Route d'Occitanie

Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) won the group sprint on stage 1 of La Route d’Occitanie on the flat run-in to L'Isle Jourdain. The Frenchman launched his sprint on the far right side with under 300km to go and held of a charging Pierre Barbier (B&B Hotels-KTM), who finished second. Elia Viviani (Ineos Grenadiers) was third.

Coming out of the final corner to the closing 1.5km straightaway, Groupama-FDJ set the pace for their top sprinter, who entered the four-day stage race as the points classification winner at this year’s Giro d’Italia. It was Démare's fourth stage win of the season.

"It was very hot today. Everyone was counting their efforts because the [heart rate] rose quickly in the [closing] laps, suddenly the peloton rolled a little in slow motion. Then it was the big blow up in the finale, with a great job from everyone. Lars van den Berg had a tough job riding for so long in this weather, hats off to him," Démare said after the victory.

"After the Giro, I relaxed, I was tired. I was counting on the Route d'Occitanie to get back on the road in view of the French Championships in Cholet, where the sprinters will be able to enjoy the opportunity to win the title.”

The opening day of racing between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean featured three categorised climbs on a rolling route, with the final ascent, Côte de Pujaudran (2km, 6.2%) coming 24.5km from the finish. However, the climb did not factor into the outcome on a sizzling hot day in southern France.

A few kilometres before the climb, a Trek-Segafredo-led peloton reeled in the four-rider breakaway of the day that contained Léo Danès (Team U Nantes Atlantique), Jean Goubert (Nice Métropole Côte d’Azur), Óscar Cabedo (Burgos-BH), Wesley Mol (Bike Aid).

From there the sprinters’ teams were locked and loaded as they headed back to the River Vienne on a finishing circuit to the flat, fast finish. TotalEnergies and GO Sport-Roubaix Lille Métropole were in the mix with 500 metres to go, but their sprinters could not match the pace of Démare. Thomas Boudat (GO Sport-Roubaix Lille Métropole) finished fourth and Max Kanter (Movistar) was fifth. Niccolo Bonifazio of TotalEnergies was seventh.

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Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp. She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times (not fast). Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France), and some mtb rides in Park City, Utah (USA).

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