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STATION DES ROUSSES, France (VN) — The team FDJ riders say that you would not work so hard and risk being cut from the Tour de France for any leader, but sprinter Arnaud Démare n demands that attention.
Démare, the 2016 Milano-Sanremo winner and stage four winner, fell behind and risked missing the Tour’s time cut for the eighth stage to the Station des Rousses ski resort in the Jura Mountains. Teammates Mickaël Delage and Ignatas Konovalovas, and much effort over the medium-mountain climbs, ensured he could fight for another sprint stage and the green jersey in Paris. They crossed the line in 40:30 minutes behind the stage winner, but more important, 5:30 minutes ahead of the feared time cut.
“You don’t do this job for any sort of leader, the way we work for him shows what kind of leader he is,” Delage said. “You won’t find in every team that kind of leader who shares such confidence with his riders. We love our leader.”
Démare alone would have never made the time cut estimated at 46 minutes behind the winner in the 187.5-kilometer stage raced at 41.59kph. Delage and Konovalovas knew to do something.
“No one sent us, we saw the situation and we made a decision. We win together, we lose together,” Konovalovas explained.
“At the beginning, I was really worried about making the time cut, but I thought, ‘That’s life.’ We win together, we spent two years together now, I said to myself, ‘Even if I go home, it doesn’t matter because I’m here because of Arnaud.'”
Konovalovas helped Démare to his Milano-Sanremo victory. He admitted that at one point around 80 kilometres in the race, when he heard the leaders were firing fast ahead, that he thought his and his teammates’ Tour would be over. Fortunately, Démare began to feel better and another four riders from other teams drifted back to them.
“Yeah, it’s hard. What can I do, that’s cycling, we didn’t choose to play soccer,” Konovalovas added.
[pullquote align=“left” attrib=”Ignatas Konovalovas”]”Yeah, it’s hard. What can I do, that’s cycling, we didn’t choose to play soccer”[/pullquote]
“It was almost a team time trial, almost, all the day you just keep on pacing. Arnaud started to feel better, and when he did, we increased our pace. It was hard.”
“My two angles Konovalovas and Delage were like amazing, more than amazing,” Démare explained. “The way they rode was much more than work, it was love.
“I’m not sick. I suffered in recovering from the last days, so the stage was very difficult. I don’t feel sick, but I don’t feel good. I feel shit, and I feel zero. I think tomorrow will be better for me because the gruppetto will be together sooner than today.”