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TREVISO, Italy (VN) – With sprint three wins already to his credit, Groupama-FDJ’s Arnaud Démare admitted that he was disappointed at not being able to go for a fourth at the end of stage 18, blaming the lack of cooperation by some rival teams, but also giving credit to the four breakaway riders for their strength and resilience in the final kilometers.
Asked whether the sprint teams had got the pursuit of the escape wrong or if the four riders in it were simply riding too hard for the peloton to be able to reel them in, Démare said it came down to a little bit of both of these factors.
“We misjudged the chase and the breakaway was very strong indeed. They were very canny too, they really played us, and then when we did start to chase hard behind them they resisted really well,” said the Frenchman.
He continued by saying that only two teams had committed fully to the pursuit.
“I should thank Quick-Step because they collaborated completely with us, and they committed all of their riders to the chase. But it’s a real shame that the other teams like Bahrain, UAE, Cofidis and DSM held back until 10km from the finish because it meant it was a wasted effort,” Démare said.
“I’m really disappointed, but I’m relieved at the same time because the sprints are over and I can concentrate fully on the last two stages and reaching the finish of the Giro in Verona.”
The Groupama sprinter looks set to celebrate another victory after he finishes his time trial in Verona on Sunday afternoon. His lead in the points competition is unassailable and he’s in line to add a second ciclamino jersey to the one that he won in 2020.
“I have to keep focused until Saturday night because Saturday really is a big day in the mountains. But I’m proud of the work that we’ve done so far. I’m proud of the team and of my teammates, and we’re now getting closer and closer to Verona,” he said.
He admitted that his success this year is quite different to two years ago, when he was pushed all the way to the finish in the points competition by Peter Sagan. It looked a similar scenario might prevail when Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert’s Biniam Girmay won stage 10 and closed to within three points of Démare.
But the Eritrean’s abandon with an eye injury that evening left the Frenchman without an obvious rival for the ciclamino jersey. At the end of stage 18, the second rider in the classification, Quick-Step’s Mark Cavendish, was 122 points behind the Frenchman.
“When I won the ciclamino jersey in 2020 there was a really big battle with Peter Sagan. There were just 10 points between us and right to the last day it was full on, but this time I’ve had a big gap for a week now,” he said. “The sprints are over now and I just need to concentrate of getting through the mountains.”