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After his FDJ team had contributed to the pace-setting in the finale, Demare beat Petit and Keukeleire in the uphill sprint to win the first stage and take the first leader's jersey in the Tour de l'Eurometropole

Photo: Sirotti

ADRIEN PETIT

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ARNAUD DEMARE

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CIRCUIT FRANCO-BELGE

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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JENS KEUKELEIRE

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02.10.2014 @ 17:37 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Having recently won the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen and the GP d’Isbergues, Arnaud Demare (FDJ) again underlined his excellent condition ahead of Paris-Tours when he won the first stage of the Tour de l’Eurometrople in a bunch sprint. The Frenchman held off Adrien Petit (Cofidis) and Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE) on the uphill finishing straight to take the first leader’s jersey in the four-day race.

 

After a disappointing Tour de France, Arnaud Demare has done nothing to hide that he wants to win Paris-Tours where he finished third 12 months ago. In September, he has returned to form ahead of his big goal with wins in the one-day races Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen and GP d’Isbergues.

 

Today Demare again underlined his excellent condition when he emerged as the strongest in the uphill sprint on stage 1 of Tour de l’Eurometropole. After his FDJ team had helped control things in the finale, the Frenchman held off Adrien Petit and Jens Keukeleire in the final dash to the line.

 

The 74th Tour de l’Eurometropole, formerly Circuit Franco-Belge, kicked off with a 191km stage from La Louviere to Kortrijk. The stage was mostly flat, with a few smaller climbs in the first half, and finished with a slightly uphill finishing straight where a bunch sprint was the widely expected outcome.

 

David Boucher (FDJ) was the only non-starter when the riders left La Louviere and the riders got the stage off to a fast beginning with lots of attacks. Lasse Norman (Garmin-Sharp) was one of the first riders to try his hand but it was a six-rider group with Jasper Stuyven (Trek), Jetse Bol (Belkin), Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha), Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE), Martin Wesemann (MTN-Qhubeka) and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) that got the first significant gap. The escapees managed to build a 12-second advantage before they were brought back after 23km of racing.

 

While defending champion Jens Debusschere (Lotto Belisol) fought his way back from a puncture, the attacking continued for a long time. Lots of smaller groups briefly got clear but after 54km of racing, things were back together.

 

This is when the right group was finally formed. Niki Terpstra (OPQS), Jack Bauer (Garmin), Angelo Tulik (Europcar), Jan Ghyselinck (Wanty) and Tom Dernies (Wallonie) took off and they started to build an advantage. Terpstra led Deniers, Bauer and Ghyselinck over the top of the first climb while Dernies led Bauer, Terpstra and Tulik over the top of the second. On the third climb, Deniers was faster than Terpstra, Bauer and Ghyselinck while Bauer beat Dernies, Terpstra and Ghyselinck on the fourth climb.

 

At that point, the gap had reached 3.53 and now Giant-Shimano had started to chase. When Bauer led Dernies, Terpstra and Tulik over the top of the fifth climb, they had brought the gap down 2.18 but they soon allowed it to grow back up to 4.05.

 

For a long time, the Dutch team kept the gap between the 2- and 4-minute marks but as they approached the first passage of the finish line, a big crashed caused some nervousness. While Ghyselinck beat Bauer and Tulik in the first intermediate sprint, the pelotons accelerated and at the finish, they had brought the advantage down to 2 minutes.

 

The peloton didn’t slow down and with 52km to go, the gap was only 1.14. This prompted Tulik and Dernies to attack and they quickly left their former companions behind.

 

A crash took Tulik out of contention, leaving Dernies as the lone leader of the race. While the rest of the early escapees were caught, Pieter Jacobs and Thomas Sprengers (Topsport) both set off in pursuit.

 

With two laps to go, the gap to the peloton was only 48 seconds and the bunch swallowed the two chasers up a few moments later. With 25km to go, it was also over for Dernies and instead Edward Theuns (Topsport) attacked.

 

The Belgian managed to build an advantage of more than a minute before FDJ started to chase. With 11km to go, Theuns was back in the fold but Topsport refused to give up. This time they sent Jelle Wallays off in an attack while Dylan van Baarle (Garmin) took off in pursuit.

 

With 5km to go, both attackers were caught and now all was set for a bunch sprint. However, the fast pace caused the peloton to split up and things got more confusing when two Garmin riders attacked. As they passed the flamme rouge, however, it was all back together and it all came down to a battle between the sprinters, with Demare using his fast legs to take his third win in a few months.

 

With the win, Demare also takes the first leader’s jersey in the four-day race that is traditionally won by a sprinter. He leads Petit by four-seconds ahead of tomorrow’s second stage which is another almost completely flat affair. The race will pass the famous Gent-Wevelgem climbs in the first half but as the second half has no topographical challenges, only the wind can prevent another bunch sprint.

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