High-speed suffering in final of Giro d’Italia stage 13: ‘Most of us couldn’t even grab our bottles’

Arnaud Démare’s Groupama-FDJ lead-out train offers their perspective on one of the most thrilling finishes of the Giro so far.

Photo: Getty Images

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CUNEO, Italy (VN) – The throwaway comment that sprint stages are boring is often heard, but it was completely undermined by the Giro d’Italia’s stage 13 finish, where the four-man breakaway cooperated almost to the line and the sprinters’ teams chasing them all had to form a temporary alliance as they chased like fury across the windswept plains of Piemonte to close them down.

The final 30km were a nail-biting drama, culminating in an enthralling sprint that saw Arnaud Démare clinch his third victory of the race.

The three riders who are the final links in his Groupama-FDJ lead-out train took a very well-earned breather before giving the inside view on what had been one of the best sprints of the seasons so far.

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“Our team had to work really hard for that, we were running out of guys,” Miles Scotson told VeloNews. “Luckily, Quick-Step cooperated and I don’t think either of us used the full lead-out train. We just had to just bring it back and I wasn’t sure that it was going to come back with two K to go to be honest, but they just ran them down in the last kilometer.”

The Australian said that the knowledge the breakaway riders would stop collaborating in the final kilometer had provided the spur to continue the chase into Cuneo and onto the final long drag up to the line.

“The breakaway got to that last K and then they’re deciding who wants to win and looking at each other. I could see them ahead and it looked like they were slowing down,” Scotson explained.

“But it was so hard to bring it back. Everyone had to commit with everything. We couldn’t even grab our bottles in the last 50 K. Most of us had no drink, it was brutal.”

It was so touch-and-go that Scotson had to make a significant switch to his usual role in the lead-outs for Démare.

“Normally I wait for around the last K before I start. But at about four K to go I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to start chasing now.’ I looked back at the guys and they just gave me a nod. To be honest, though, it wasn’t really one of those sprints where you needed a big lead-out because the peloton was so stretched out.”

Ramon Sinkeldam was the next man in the lead-out line. With Scotson committed earlier than usual, he had to fill the gap left by the Australian and crossed the line with no idea that Démare had won.

“It was totally tailwind, so it really hard to get back to the guys at the front. They were super strong. They were pushing like hell and we had to use the whole team,” said the Dutchman. “I didn’t see the finish line, but apparently he won so I’m really happy.”

Like Scotson, Sinkeldam was also counting on the breakaway riders easing up in the finale.

“At the last minute they were playing poker at the front, so we got close,” he said. “It’s not often that you’re in a grand tour winning stages, and we needed it because we didn’t win during the spring. The team put a lot of pressure on us and we’ve delivered in the Giro.”

Démare’s final lead-out man, Jacopo Guarnieri, was still gasping for air as he started to reflect on the stage victory. The Italian said Groupama had been confident that things would come together for them at the Giro.

“We had confidence at the start but obviously from the outside it seemed like we weren’t too confident, but we knew it was just a matter of time. I said on the first day that it’s like when you start a wheel rolling, when it goes then it’s easier to let it roll,” said the Italian.

He said that the key to victory was ultimately positioning, and that Groupama’s numbers and teamwork had enabled them to place Démare exactly where he needed to be to get a clear run to the line.

“Nowadays, I think the sprinters – and I don’t want to be rude to anybody – are all at the same level, so it’s really a matter of positioning and timing. So once you adjust those two things, I think you can get a lot of victories,” Guarnieri said.

With the mountains now looming, the sprinters and their lead-out riders will switch their focus to surviving the days ahead until their battle recommences on stage 18 into Treviso.

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