One year ago Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) was narrowly beaten into second by Peter Sagan in the first stage of the Driedaagse van de Panne. Determined to improve on that performance, the strong Frenchman set off in pursuit of the leaders in today's opener of the Belgian race and even though he failed to make the junction, he proved that he is much more than a pure sprinter.
Arnaud Demare may mostly be known for his sprinting skills but the young Frenchman is much more than a fast finisher. In fact, he has great ambitions for the cobbled classics and hopes to one day develop into one of the leading contenders in the hardest one-day races.
One year ago he put those skills on show when he almost made it into the group that sprinted for fourth in the Tour of Flanders and earlier this year he featured deep into the finale of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. However, his first great showing in the Flemish Ardennes came one year ago when he made it into the 10-rider group that sprinted for the win in the opening stage of the Driedaagse van de Panne.
Today he started the 2014 edition of the Belgian race with the intention of improving on that performance. Unlike last year, however, he missed the boast when Peter Sagan attacked in the finale and so he was left with no other option than to try to bridge across.
Taking off with Luke Durbridge who tried to save his GC campaign, Demare got to within 8 seconds of the 11-rider group that had ridden off the front but he never made the junction. He rolled across the line in 12th, 11 seconds behind stage winner Sagan.
The result added to the disappointment of FDJ GC rider Johan Le Bon who had made a similarly ill-fated attempt to bridge across when he took off with Julien Vermote moments after Demare.
Despite the lost opportunity, FDJ manager Marc Madiot was happy with the performance.
"I stood along the road and I saw Arnaud Démare with Durbridge and Johan Le Bon with Vermote," he said. "They have not managed to get back to the front but Arnaud gave it everything. I'm not unhappy with what I saw. Once again he has demonstrated that he is a great rider. He made a small mistake of inattention but he had the legs to make the effort and he wouldn't have had that in the past
"He crossed the line 11 seconds behind the leaders and I have not seen a rider that was completelt empty. Arnaud knows what he can do and is ready for the big upcoming races. Johan Le Bon was also very disappointed but I made him understand that the situation is not too bad."
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