Beaten by the Irishman Sam Bennett during the first stage on Sunday at Saint-Cyr-L’École, and not in the game the next day at Amilly in a stormy final, Arnaud Démare will undoubtedly have another sprint to compete on this Thursday during the 5th stage of Paris-Nice between Vienne and Bollène. If this is the case, he will try to achieve his first success in 2021. The opportunity to focus on what often makes the success of the sprinter of the Groupama-FDJ triple champion of France: his train.
It is a colorful ballet worthy of the greatest operas. The table generally brightens up the last ten or fifteen kilometers of the flat stages. Those where at the end of boredom, we finally have a little crunch to put in our mouths. This ballet is that of the sprinters’ trains, suddenly in a hurry (after a long nap) to enter the dance and occupy the vanguard of the peloton so as not to give up an inch of ground to the opponents. Ball in front, they rush towards the finish line with one idea: to launch their respective sprint rockets as best they can. A pretty fascinating fight when you watch it with a keen eye.
“Today we set the pace”
In this area, Arnaud Démare has at Groupama FDJ what is best in the world in 2021. A train devoted to his cause and which looks like a TGV on the days when it is smiling. “Today it is we who set the pace of the peloton from this point of view, analysis also Marc Madiot, general manager of the French team. We have a train among the three best at the world level, everything simply one of the biggest of the bunch “. And which notably enabled Arnaud Démare in 2020 to win 4 stages in the Tour of Italy.
This train, depending on the circumstances, up to four fellows, devoted servants of Picard supposed to put it on the rails of victory. Four accomplices who accompany him on the races or during his winter preparation courses in Spain. Four friends also in life who were all present on her wedding day. In short, men of confidence.
Konovalovas and Scotson, the first stages of the rocket
The first of them is Lithuanian. His name: Ignatas Konovalovas. A sort of guardrail, of Saint Bernard for the rest of the gang. His role according to Arnaud Démare is fundamental. “We often talk about the last kilometer, but sometimes the most important thing is to be able to come back up in a good position three miles from the line.” “Kono” precisely has for mission to replace the whole of the team as high as possible in the hierarchy before the final packing. A shadow job that is both meticulous in making its way through a peloton where things go hand in hand, and essential for the rest of the operations.
The second wagon is from Adelaide, in southern Australia. When Miles Scotson takes matters into his own hands, that is to say three kilometers from the finish, his speed is around 60 km / h. If he is subjected to the throes of atmospheric resistance to the maximum, he creates an aerodynamic bubble behind him which shelters his teammates from the wind and allows them to gain speed while saving themselves. Snuggled up behind this bubble, Arnaud Démare spends up to 60% less energy. A considerable gain for the final. “That’s all the interest explains the sprinter. The important thing at this time is to be placed, and to save as much as possible.”
Sinkeldam and Guarnieri to propel Démare
When all goes according to plan, the third stage of the rocket is a Dutch golgoth measuring 1.91 m for 75 kilos. He usually happens to business near the red flame of the last mile. While the peloton’s speed is already above 60 km / h, it can also play a scout role in the winding stage finals. He is ideally the one who will really start the sprint. During this time, Arnaud Démare must remain ultra concentrated, he spends very little energy compared to his teammates, but must play “placed”, and be very attentive. Because only fifteen small centimeters separate each bike from each other.
At 400 meters from the line, Arnaud Démare is only beaten by his loyal lieutenant, the Italian Jacopo Guarnieri. Its role is to raise the counter needle up to approximately 65 kilometers per hour. As soon as he weakens, he signals himself with his arm by an almost imperceptible gesture. And Arnaud Démare can appear 200 or 250 meters from the line to in turn face the wall of air. It then releases a power of 1500 watts, the equivalent of an electric scooter, and reaches a speed of 70 km / h that it will be able to hold (at the cost of a very intensive training) for about fifteen seconds.
Ideally, Arnaud Démare then plays for the win with his toughest opponents. But temper all the same. “When my train is there, the chances of success are greater, but that does not prevent me from having already won sprints on my own.” As for example on the Classicissima Milan San Remo in 2016, or during the last French championships against an admittedly very small group composed only of Bryan Coquard and Julian Alaphilippe.
Anyway, the triple champion of France recognizes it: “there are two schools. Two types of sprinters”. Those who appreciate group work like him, and those who don’t mind it or who have no other choice, for lack of sufficiently efficient teammates, than to indulge in a solitary exercise in the matter. They jump from wheel to wheel in the last mile, a little more haphazardly, although with the science of racing, some have a knack for getting involved in the fight in all circumstances. Peter Sagan the Slovak, Bryan Coquard the French, or Caleb Ewan the Australian are specialists in the field.