Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) snatched victory at Paris-Tours on Sunday, sprinting from a four-man group in a dramatic climax to the late-season Classic.
The Frenchman only hit the front of the race inside the final 750 metres, having combined with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) to bridge across to the leading duo of Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels) and Stan Dewulf (AG2R Citroën).
That pair had been out front for more than 40 kilometres, attacking from a reduced peloton that had been split in the crosswinds, and looked on course to contest the title between them as they ticked off the numerous gravel sectors and collaborated all the way to Tours.
But they were hunted down as Démare and Stuyven themselves collaborated in the final 10km, making the junction with barely a moment to catch their breath for the sprint. Démare opened it up and sustained his power all the way to the line, with Bonnamour pipping Stuyven for the runner-up spot while Dewulf faded behind.
"I'm really happy, it's a lot of emotion," Démare said. "We know what I have been going through lately, no success, not the legs I wanted, today was a really ideal day. It was a sprint to the finish, I really didn't want to miss out.
"We stayed for a long time with Stuyven at 10 seconds behind the two riders, we were all in it together. Finally we get in, I take the initiative to close the gap. I threw everything I had into it and it worked. I'm very happy."
Paris-Tours was once known as a sprinter’s Classic but the introduction of gravel tracks through the Vouvray vineyards a few years ago drastically altered the complexion of a race that has existed since 1896. Démare is a sprinter by trade but couldn’t rely on a bunch gallop.
"I didn't think that this new course of Paris-Tours would suit me but everything turned out as I wanted," Démare said.
He was up front when Stuyven split the bunch on the long penultimate Peu Morier gravel sector with 20km to go, and then the pair of them went clear when Démare’s teammate Valentin Madouas accelerated on the slopes of the Côte de Vouvray soon after. They had Bob Jungels (AG2R) and Roger Adria (Kern Pharma) for company, and the 25-second gap to the front of the race became even more bridgeable when Frederik Frison (Lotto Soudal), who’d been part of the original move with Dewulf and Bonnamour, punctured with 13km remaining.
Still, cooperation was lacking, and Démare decided to issue a huge acceleration on the final climb of the Côte de Rochecorbon, to which only Stuyven could respond. The Belgian denied the first request for a turn but soon came through, and the pair worked faultlessly together to hunt down the leaders.
They had them in sight in the final couple of kilometres and a couple of huge turns apiece saw them get across inside the final kilometre. After the briefest of lulls, the quartet sprang into action once again, and Démare still had enough left in the tank to make his finishing kick count.
How it unfolded
The 212.3km route from Chartres to Tours was largely flat, with the gravel sectors and short climbs crammed into the final 50km. However, a stiff tailwind, with a hint of crosswind, made for a fast and furious day from the off.
Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Visma) and Julien Duval (AG2R Citroën) formed the early breakaway before Rune Herregodts (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) bridged across to make it a trio. Groupama-FDJ soon accelerated in an apparent attempt to spark echelons but then relented, allowing the breakaway to sail clear and carve out an eight-minute lead.
However, with well over 100km still remaining, the pace in the peloton picked up markedly. After a long period of full-throttle riding, the wind struck in the right direction to split the race into echelons around 80km from home. The bunch ended up effectively split in two, with most of the big-name favourites present and correct in a front peloton of 35 riders.
That leading group quickly swallowed up the breakaway and then hit the first of the nine gravel sectors with 50km remaining. Immediately, a new selection was made, with Bonnamour, Dewulf, and Frison going clear with Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic), but the latter wasn’t there for long as he fell victim to a puncture on the loose gravel.
There was a regrouping in the main peloton as the leading trio opened up a lead of 45 seconds on the subsequent three sectors, with Trek-Segafredo and Groupama-FDJ the teams marshalling the peloton. FDJ looked to use the Côte de la Rochère climb with 29km to go as a launchpad to cut the deficit, dropping the defending champion Casper Pedersen (DSM) as the bunch split to pieces.
That brought the gap down to 20 seconds but the front three rode strongly over the next two sectors and up the short climb that led into the Peu Morier sector - the longest of the race. It was there that Stuyven lit things up, going clear briefly with Démare, Madouas, Jungels, and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix). The bunch split to pieces and, although it did start to reform on the tarmac, the Côte de Vouvray was just around the corner and Madouas lit it up once again.
Démare, Stuyven, Jungels, and Adria made it a chasing quintet, with the latter launching a brief attack with 15km to go. A couple of kilometres later, it was heartbreak for Frison, who punctured and had to watch the chasers sail past while he got a new wheel.
The gap fell to 16 seconds but they started looking at each other and it went back out, offering a sliver of hope to what was now a two-man lead group. On the final climb with 11km to go, Démare took matters into his own hands, going well clear before Stuyven impressively worked his way up.
The last 10km saw a dramatic two-on-two pursuit, with the catch being made in the home straight before Démare powered clear to finally win the French Classic where he’s twice been on the lower steps of the podium.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||4:33:07|
|2||Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|3||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|4||Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team||0:00:03|
|5||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:00:40|
|6||Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|7||Arne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|8||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|9||Julien Trarieux (Fra) Delko|
|10||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|11||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|12||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|13||Samuel Leroux (Fra) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|14||Valentin Tabellion (Fra) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|15||Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis|
|16||Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|17||Urko Berrade Fernandez (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|18||Matis Louvel (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|19||Roger Adria Oliveras (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|20||Jos van Emden (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|21||Bob Jungels (Lux) AG2R Citroën Team|
|22||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:00:44|
|23||Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:01:22|
|24||Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:01:25|
|25||Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||0:01:27|
|26||Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation||0:01:29|
|27||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|28||Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|29||Alan Riou (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|30||Jérémy Leveau (Fra) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|31||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|32||Kamil Malecki (Pol) Lotto Soudal||0:01:31|
|33||Adrien Lagree (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|34||Florian Maitre (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|35||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix|
|36||Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:02:20|
|37||Jason Tesson (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93|
|38||Senne Leysen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|39||Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB|
|40||Ward Vanhoof (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|41||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|42||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Cofidis|
|43||Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|44||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ|
|45||Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|46||Erik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|47||Mathias De Witte (Bel) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|48||Unai Iribar Jauregi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|49||Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroën Team|
|50||Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama-FDJ|
|51||Niki Terpstra (Ned) TotalEnergies|
|52||Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo|
|53||Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:02:25|
|54||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis||0:02:29|
|55||Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|56||Jens Reynders (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:04:34|
|57||Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|58||Clément Russo (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|59||Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|60||Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|61||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|62||Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis|
|63||Romain Cardis (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93|
|64||Cedric Beullens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|65||Gijs Leemreize (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|66||Michel Heßmann (Ger) Jumbo-Visma|
|67||Mick van Dijke (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|68||Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|69||Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|70||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|71||Morten Hulgaard (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|72||Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo|
|73||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|74||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation||0:06:00|
|75||Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|76||Alexandre Delettre (Fra) Delko|
|77||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation||0:07:34|
|78||Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|79||Rune Herregodts (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|80||Adrien Petit (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|81||Casper Pedersen (Den) Team DSM|
|82||Clément Carisey (Fra) Delko|
|83||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|84||Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB||0:10:05|
|85||Nico Denz (Ger) Team DSM|
|86||Evaldas Siskevicius (Ltu) Delko|
|87||Edward Planckaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|88||Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB|
|89||Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM|
|90||Lars Saugstad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|91||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM|
|92||Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:12:50|
|93||Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB|
|94||Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:12:53|
|95||Alexis Renard (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation||0:13:30|
|96||Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation|
|97||Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|98||Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|99||Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo||0:14:16|
|100||Nicolas Debeaumarche (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93|
|101||Donavan Grondin (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|102||Danny van der Tuuk (Ned) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|103||Pau Miquel Delgado (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|104||Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis|
|105||Tony Hurel (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93|
|106||Mulu Kinfe Hailemichael (Eth) Delko|
|107||André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis|
|108||Txomin Juaristi Arrieta (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|109||Szymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis|
|110||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix|
|111||Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB|
|112||Erik Baska (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|113||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) TotalEnergies|
|114||Luc Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB|
|115||Mikel Iturria Segurola (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|116||Tom Paquot (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB||0:14:24|
|117||Antonio Angulo Sampedro (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:21:22|
|DNF||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team DSM|
|DNF||Daan Hoole (Ned) SEG Racing Academy|
|DNF||Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Martin Laas (Est) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Fabien Doubey (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Norman Vahtra (Est) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Jonas Abrahamsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Eduard Prades Reverter (Spa) Delko|
|DNF||Anthony Maldonado (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93|
|DNF||Flavien Maurelet (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93|
|DNF||Maximilien Picoux (Bel) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|DNF||Emiel Vermeulen (Bel) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole|
|DNF||Alex Jaime Fernandez (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|DNF||Ibon Ruiz Sedano (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|DNF||Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Jakob Egholm (Den) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Jonathan Hivert (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|DNF||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|DNF||Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||August Jensen (Nor) Delko|
|DNF||Ruben Apers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Aaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Jokin Aranburu Arruti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|DNF||Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|DNF||Joan Bou Company (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|DNF||Francisco Galvan Fernandez (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|DNS||Morné Van Niekerk (RSA) St Michel-Auber 93|
|DNS||Jordan Levasseur (Fra) Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Metropole|
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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