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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, October 11, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

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Team reports on Paris-Tours

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Winner Arnaud Démare's Groupama-FDJ team posted this report:

A great victory in many senses. On the long Avenue de Grammont, which traditionally hosts Paris-Tours’ finish, Arnaud Démare conquered one of his greatest victories on Sunday, in his very final race of the season. In a lively day through the vineyards, the former French champion took his responsibilities in the last climbs before a thrilling finale towards Tours.

Arnaud Démare

Arnaud Démare wins another big one. ASO photo

After bridging across the leaders in the last kilometre, the Frenchman claimed his ninth victory of the season thanks to a huge, 300-meter sprint. As a nice sign of history, he also became the first Frenchman to win the event since… Frédéric Guesdon, his day’s sports director, a winner back in 2006.

The day after the last Monument of the season, it was time for the last great Classic of the calendar on Sunday, from Chartres to Tours. On a route that experienced numerous changes over the last few years, the 115th edition of Paris-Tours also was the end of the 2021 season for a large number of riders. It was then time to leave it all on the road, and the Groupama-FDJ cycling team was very much willing to be active in the race, creating an echelon after barely thirty kilometers behind a leading trio.

“We had a strong team at the start, so we wanted to make the race hard, especially to have many cards in the final,” explained the sports director Frédéric Guesdon. “We know that on these gravel roads, you can lose everything in a blink of an eye. We couldn’t play everything on one man only, so we wanted to have an elimination race to improve our chances”.

The first move at the beginning proved unsuccessful, but it still gave an idea of what was coming. Subsequently, Rune Herregodts (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Julien Duval (AG2R-Citroën) and Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Visma) were able to take a seven-minute gap in the lead, but the peloton was again split up in the wind at halfway point. In a first bunch of around thirty riders, the team had Arnaud Démare, Stefan Küng and Olivier Le Gac, while the breakaway was caught twenty kilometers before the first vineyard sector.

“We had three guys in front, but the gap never was very big and that allowed those who were still in the peloton to stay in the game,” said Frédéric. “Fortunately so, because a rider such as Valentin proved essential afterwards”. In the first sectors, Stefan Küng and Arnaud Démare remained careful within the leading group, but a trio made of Frédérik Frison, Franck Bonnamour and Stan Dewulf still took the race lead.

"With about thirty kilometers to go, the various chasing groups came as one, and Groupama-FDJ then started to make the race harder in La Rochère climb, with Ramon Sinkeldam leading up the way. Valentin Madouas took advantage of it to attack several times, which clearly reduced the bunch. The Breton was even joined with twenty kilometres to go by Stefan Küng, Arnaud Démare and a few others. In the penultimate climb, the young Frenchman gave it another go, and only five riders were able to go with him this time, including his teammate Arnaud Démare. The gap then narrowed to thirty seconds with the leaders, down to two after Frison’s puncture. “We didn’t want to have only one option”, Frédéric reminded us. “That’s why we told everyone to be aggressive. Valentin tried to get out, it didn’t work out, so he worked for Arnaud”.

And just like his teammates, Arnaud Démare was not willing to ride conservatively today. On the opposite, he made the decisive move himself in the Rochecorbon climb, the last one of the day. Jasper Stuyven fought hard to stay in the wheel as Valentin Madouas crossed the summit thirty meters behind, which proved too much to come back. “We had to take things in control,” assured Frédéric.

“When you want a sprint finish, everything is up to you, and that might not be the best way to close the gaps. We had to attack to find ourselves with the best. That’s what happened with Stuyven. Both are fast, both are in good shape, both are winners and both had a reason to pull”. From then on, a real battle established itself between the Bonnamour-Dewulf duo and the Démare-Stuyven one in the last ten kilometres. “I didn’t know if we were going to make it,” confessed Arnaud. “We came back close thanks to the attack with Stuyven, but we then stayed just 10 seconds behind for a long time. We could see them, they were just there, but we couldn’t close the gap. I was a bit at the limit and I could see Jasper was also doing everything he could. We were coming back, but very slowly”.

“At one point, I was scared we would never see them again, even though we knew they would look at each other in the final”, added Frédéric. “A rider much slower than Arnaud could have let Arnaud all the responsibility of the chase. Luckily it did not happen, and everything was back together in the final kilometre.”

After the gap gradually narrowed, Arnaud Démare himself took the responsibility to close the last few meters after the flamme rouge. The final sprint only started a handful of seconds later. “I wanted to go from far,” said the rider from Beauvais. “I knew everyone was exhausted and that I could take the best of them by holding the sprint as long as possible. I really didn’t want to miss this. I saw the 250-meter sign, had the opening and went for it, with all my strength. I really felt I could do it, I didn’t crack and I really wanted to get that win”.

Thanks to a long and powerful sprint, his specialty, Arnaud Démare took the lead and never let it go. With a bike-length on the line, he could then celebrate his victory in this iconic race with a deep shout. “Winning Paris-Tours after this difficult second part of the season is very emotional,” he commented a few minutes later with a broad smile. “I am really very happy. Lately, I haven’t gotten lucky, or haven’t had the legs I hoped for, but I’ve never given up. I think to my wife, with whom we did everything well to keep believing. And here we are, things finally went our way. It worked out today and that’s amazing. To win in the last race of the season, and in that way, it’s pure happiness. I have won some victories, but I will really enjoy this one”.

It is therefore on a high, and with a ninth win this season that Arnaud Démare can peacefully head to his holidays. “All victories feel good, but this one certainly more than others, especially for Arnaud who has been waiting for this since June”, concluded Frédéric. “We also had a disappointing Paris-Roubaix, so we’re happy to end the season with a victory (the 23rd for the team this year, note). I don’t like to say it saves his season, but it surely is going to do him good before tackling the next one. Everyone is aware that you can’t always be at the top of your game, and that you constantly have to question yourself. Arnaud won with style today, but we know he’s capable of that sort of thing. I hope that gives him some ideas for the future”. In the meantime, the Breton sports director has had to give away his status of “last French winner of Paris-Tours” (2006). “It makes me happy that a rider of the team takes my spot,” he said. “And if I needed to have a successor, at least I could take part in that victory. Therefore, I’m not completely written off the books!”

Third-place Jasper Stuyven's Trek Segafredo team posted this report:

Jasper Stuyven ended the 2021 season with a big performance in Paris-Tours, sprinting to third place after a big chase with Arnaud Démare to catch two leaders in the final 500 meters.

The four exhausted riders eyed each other as they slowed for the first time in 212 kilometers. After a super-fast race that included dirt roads and steep climbs, it came down to who had legs left for the last 200 meters.

Démare jumped first, leading out the sprint. Stuyven looked good to slingshot around the French sprinter but could not find the last bit of speed he needed. However, it was enough for third – a well-deserved podium to end a grueling race and long season.

“At the end, I am happy to finish the season like this, with good legs and a good finale. Of course, I would love to go back and change all the near misses to victories, but it is what it is. I think with Milano-Sanremo in the pocket, and I was always there the whole season, for me that gives some satisfaction. Of course, I would like to win more, but it’s not that easy, but it’s nice to at least get the chance to fight for it.”

As expected, the gravel roads and short steep climbs played out in classics-style and gave a thrilling ending to the French classic.

Racing on gracel roads

The peloton on the gravel roads in the vineyards. ASO photo

In the finale, the breakaway still held a threatening gap, and Stuyven capitalized on fantastic teamwork from Alex Kirsch and Edward Theuns. The two had missed the first split in the peloton but fought back again to help minimize the breakaway’s lead. 

“The guys missed the first echelon of 34 riders that was not a good situation for us, and it was a bit of a gamble not to have more there when we hit the first [dirt] sectors. But it was nice to see they kept fighting and later did some work to put me in good position to go again. We managed well at the end; they made things right and did their best for me.”

On the last climb, Arnaud Démare attacked, and Stuyven was in a good position to follow.

Two riders still held a stubborn lead, and Démare and Stuyven, two fast finishers, had to go all-in to catch the pair. 

The kilometers ticked down, but the gap held at 10-12 seconds. Finally, in the last half kilometer, the catch was made, and a sprint between four fatigued riders ensued.

In the last race of 2021, Jasper Stuyven once again gave a thrilling performance, playing for the win as he has done all season long.

“I look forward to having an off-season now and put the bike on the side,” he ended.

Fifth place Danny van Poppel's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team posted this report:

A week after an epic battle on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, the riders of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux had to deal with the unpaved roads through the vineyards of Paris-Tours (1.Pro, 10/10) this Sunday. Introduced in 2018, the nine sectors of dirt were accompanied by seven short climbs, all spread over the last 50 kilometers of the race.

If the crossing from Chartres to the first gravel sector seemed relatively gentle on paper, the wind prompted the creation of echelons 100 kilometers from the finish. A group of 35 riders broke away from the bunch, catching the early breakaway of three riders some ten kilometers later. Among the riders in the first echelon of the race were sprinter Danny van Poppel, winner of Binche-Chimay-Binche last Tuesday, accompanied by Belgian Loïc Vliegen.

Chartres catherdral

The riders roll by Chartres Cathedral as they begin the race to Tours. ASO photo

A new leading trio formed at the start of the vineyard sectors, while the pursuit group was reinforced by around twenty riders from the initial peloton. Alongside van Poppel and Vliegen, Belgian Tom Devriendt and Italian Andrea Pasqualon maintained their place in the second stage of the race before the decision was made in the penultimate vineyard sector of Peu Morier (1.6 km), also the longest of the event.

The ten kilometers which separated the last obstacle from the finish line saw an intense pursuit of four riders, from which emanated van Poppel and Pasqualon: the two fast men of the selection led by Hilaire Van der Schueren rallied Tours in 5th and 8th positions respectively. The Dutchman concludes his impressive season with his seventeenth top 5 in 2021.

“This 5th place in Paris-Tours is a nice conclusion of a long and busy period. The final started early because of crosswinds and I nicely managed to follow the first echelon. As it was the first time I raced through the vineyards in Paris-Tours, I didn’t really know how hard it would be in reality. I remarked that my competitors in the front kept very cool and luckily I copied them as the final was very hard indeed! But once we passed the final climb, I knew that this was a good opportunity to sprint for another place of honor. This Paris-Tours is the apotheosis of a fantastic period after the Tour de France, during which everything went so smooth and my confidence on both the mental and physical level never ceased growing. Despite a difficult start of the season, the team always kept believing and working hard. Therefore, I’m happy that I could reward them with a series of victories and places of honor. With these legs, and the good atmosphere in the team, it would have been a pleasure to continue the season. But of course I’m looking forward to enjoy some rest. I want to thank the team for the two seasons together!” - Danny van Poppel

Here's the Team Bora-hansgrohe's post:

With Paris-Tour BORA – hansgrohe took on their last race of the 2021 season. Especially the finale was quite tough with seven climbs and nine gravel sectors. After the bunch fell apart into different groups in a crosswind section with about 70 km remaining, an early break was caught on one of the first gravel sectors. BORA – hansgrohe had with Maciej Bodnar and Patrick Gamper two riders at the front at that moment, but the situation changed.

First, three riders attacked from that first group and as a result several riders tried to bridge across to the leaders. BORA – hansgrohe missed those moves and in the end, Arnaud Demare took the win from a four-men breakaway while Patrick Gamper finished the race just behind the first chasing group.

From the Finish Line:
"After the split Jordi came back with a small group and I tried to look after him. But with those gravel sectors the race was really chaotic, and I had to focus on myself. My radio didn’t work anymore, so I missed that Jordi punctured. Anyway, we haven’t been in the best situation at that moment. In the end I attacked with two kilometers to go from my group when everybody was looking to each other. I did what I could, but for sure we hoped for more today." – Patrick Gamper

"To be honest, we didn’t have the power today to fight for the win. After the split in the crosswind section we had Bodi and Gampi in the first group, but worked in the second bunch for Jordi. The groups came back together, but from there on the race was full on on the gravel sectors. With 20km remaining we had Gampi in the third group and Jordi just a little further back, but he punctured then and there was no chance to come back anymore. Actually, even at that point we didn’t fight for the win anymore. Gampi attacked from his group in the finale to cross the line in 23rd place, we didn’t have the legs to do better today." – Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

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