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"What I remember tonight is that I have really started to make myself present in the races that I do. It is a very special kind of race. You cannot wait, these are races that you have to learn to anticipate. You have to visualize and r...

Photo: ASO / B. Bade








02.03.2014 @ 12:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard put on a show in yesterday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad when the team delivered a very aggressive performance in the first classic of the season. Youngsters Arnaud Demare and Johan Le Bon led the way, showing that here is much more to come from the French team in the future.


While several major classics powerhouses failed to make much of an impression in yesterday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, continued to show that they are a force to be reckoned with in the cobbled races. Already last year, Matthieu Ladagnous had proved the team's strength with strong showings in Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders and based on their first performance, their upwards trend continues.


In the absence of Ladagnous who is recovering from injury sustained in the Tour of Qatar, the way was led by youngster Arnaud Demare and Johan Le Bon. The latter launched several attacks and was a very visible presence deep into the finale but missed out when the crucial attacks went.


It was more promising for the team when Demare and Yoann Offredo made it into a 7-rider group with Niki Terpstra, Lars Boom, Egoitz Garcia, Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Kenneth Vanbilsen. With Demare arguable the fastest finisher in the group, Offredo had to sacrifice himself for his team leader and suddenly FDJ had the cards on their hands.


Unfortunately, Offredo crashed when the riders entered the Molenberg with less than 40km to go and as Demare was dropped on the climb, he faced a long chase before getting back to Terpstra and Boom who had escaped on their own. He paid for his efforts on the final cobbles and ended up getting dropped, before falling back to the peloton.


Demare and Le Bon stayed in the group of favourites but lacked the power to respond to the two attacks that ended up deciding the race. Despite Le Bon's best efforts, he failed to reel back the attackers and so Demare could only sprint for 6th place.


Having used up most of his energy, he could only manage 10th but team manager Marc Madiot was very pleased with the race.


"Johan only has 4 days of racing in his legs [two days in Qatar and two in the Tour du Haut-Var]," he told the team's website. "What he did today was more than good. And he was still there in the finale to help Arnaud Demare which says a lot about his potential.


"It was a good start," he said referring to Demare's and Offredo's break. "But on the wet road, Yoann crashed when they started the Molenberg and I think it changed the outcome. He was not there to ride for Arnaud and the race remained open.


"We had a great race. In the classics, we are already at a higher level than last year. And we still miss Matthieu Ladagnous who will return to competition in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen in the weekend. After that, we lacked a bit of luck but it is going in the right direction. We have the basics and we will win races. I can tell you that Arnaud learned a lot today even though he finished completely empty because he didn't take his bag in the feed zone. There is still something to improve."


Demare was similarly pleased with his performance.


"I felt I had good legs and that it was not right to wait in the group," he said. "I had to jump into the escape when the opportunity presented itself even if it was hard. It required a great effort and I didn't know how far I could tap into my energy reserves. When Yoann crashed and after Terpstra had attacked, everything became confusing in out group. I had to ride hard to get back and afterwards I didn't have much energy left.


"What I remember tonight is that I have really started to make myself present in the races that I do. It is a very special kind of race. You cannot wait, these are races that you have to learn to anticipate. You have to visualize and remember the climbs. In the team, everyone had a specific role, we are all links in a chain, from the first to the last one. I note that we are able to follow the best and this is encouraging for the future."


Demare will be one of the favourites in today's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. You an read our preview here



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