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After an entire day on the front of the peloton, FDJ delivered Demare to his first 2016 victory on stage 2 of La Méditeranéenne; teammates Delage and Ladangous were second and fourth respectively and Demare took the overall lead

Photo: A.S.O.










12.02.2016 @ 17:42 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Arnaud Demare (FDJ) got back on track after a disappointing 2015 season when he opened his account by winning the bunch sprint on stage 2 of La Méditeranéenne. After an excellent lead-out, his nearest rival turned out to be teammate Mickael Delage and as Matthieu Ladagnous crossed the line in fourth, it was only Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) who prevented an FDJ clean sweep of the podium. Demare also takes the leader’s jersey.


The 2014 season was a magnificent one for Arnaud Demare as he won no less than 15 races, including the French Championships. For some reason, however, everything went wrong in 2015 as he only managed to win two stages at the Tour of Belgium during a very frustrating year.


Based on his performances in the early part of the season, it seems that the French sprinter is back on track and today he got his first win of the season when he came out on top on stage 2 of La Méditeranéenne. The win comes just one day after he was part of the winning team in the team time trial and makes up for a frustrating debut at Etoile de Besseges last week.


The relatively flat stage was always expected to suit the sprinters and as there was no wind in the dangerous final section along the coast, it soon became apparent that it would come down to a bunch sprint. All day FDJ were working behind the early breakaway of Yannick Mayer (Veranclassic) and Luca Sterbini (Bardiani) and they got no help from their rivals.


There was no wind and the riders were travelling along big roads which made it difficult for the breakaway. When they entered the final 30km, they only had 2.15 left of their advantage but they got some hope when FDJ had to stop their chase to wait for Alexandre Geniez who had suffered a puncture.


FDJ went back to work and with 25km to go, they had reduced the gap to 1.30. Meanwhile, Francesco Chicchi (Androni) returned to the peloton after a puncture.


With 12km to go, the peloton split and Chicchi found himself caught out in the second group. At this point, the gap was only 42 seconds and it was now Ag2r forcing the pace.


With 10km to go, the escapees only had 30 seconds and when it was down to 25 seconds, Sterbini attacked. Mayer managed to rejoin him and he even left the Italian behind. Meanwhile, Julien El Fares (Marseille) was one of many riders to puncture.


The peloton had regrouped when Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani) and he was not the only rider to hit the deck on the wet roads. One of the riders to hit the deck was Sterbini which ended his day in the breakaway.


With 3km to go, Mayer was also brought back and everything was set for a bunch sprint. FDJ hit the front and delivered Demare in the perfect way and the former French champion easily sprinted to the win. Lead-out man Mickael Delage even crossed the line in second and overall leader Matthieu Ladagnous in fourth as only Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) prevented it from becoming a clean sweep of the podium for FDJ.


With the win, Demare takes the leader’s jersey but as there are no time bonuses in the race, he is still equal on time with four of his teammates. It will be hard to defend his position in tomorrow’s third stage which is a much hillier affair. After an early category 3 climb, the riders will tackle the category 1 Cote des Tuilieres with 55.2km to go and in the finale they face an uncategorized climb before they go up the category 2 Col du Tanneron. From the op 8.5km of very difficult descending remain.


A lumpy stage

After the opening team time trial in Spain, the riders were in France for the second stage which brought them over 157.6km from Banyuls-sur-Mer to Port-Vendres. The stage included two small category 3 climbs in the middle section but was mostly flat. However, the final part of the stage took place along the coast where the wind could come into play.


The UCI checked the bikes of the riders before they head out for their neutral ride under a blue sky. There were no overnight withdrawals.


Two riders get clear

Right from the start, the attacks started as the peloton sped along at a brutal pace and it was the dangerous pair of Axel Domont (Ag2r) and Andriy Grivko (Astana) that first got clear. However, the peloton quickly reacted and brought them back.


While Louis Verhelst (Roubaix) became the first rider to leave the race, Yannick Mayer (Veranclassic) took off. Luca Sterbini (Bardiani) set off in pursuit and those two riders joined each other after 10km of racing.


FDJ in control

FDJ were not too keen to let the break go yet and kept the gap at around 25 seconds until the peloton finally stopped for a natural break. Hence, the gap had gone out to 2.05 at the 14km mark and it was 3.18 after 20km of racing.


FDJ controlled the peloton and while it started to rain, they allowed the gap to go out to 4.20 at the 30km mark. At the end of the first hour in which they had covered 42.9km, it was 4.55 and It was 5.00 at the 50km mark.


Sterbini wins the KOM sprint

That looked like it would be the maximum and as rain continued to fall, FDJ started to slowly reel the break in. The gap came down to 4.30 but as the peloton again slowed down, it went out to 5.36 after 62km of racing.


As they hit the first climb, the peloton accelerated and it only took 4.40 after Sterbini had beaten Mayer in the KOM sprint before Alex Aranburu (Euskadi) led Sergio Sousa (Vorarlberg) and the rest of the peloton over the top. On the descent, they gap went out to 5.00 before Mayer beat Sterbini in the intermediate sprint. Odd Christian Eiking set the pace for FDJ and was third across the line.


Eiking upped the pace and when he led the peloton to the top of the third climb after Sterbini had again beaten Mayer in the KOM sprint, he had reduced the gap to 4 minutes. With 36km to go, he had shaved another minute off the advantage and in the end it would all come down to the expected bunch sprint where Demare came out on top.



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