There were mixed emotions for Arnaud Démare (FDJ) after Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. On the one hand, he was happy to have played such a prominent role in what was only his seventh race day of the season, but on the other it was hard to look past the disappointment of a rare opportunity spurned.
Having finished 9th the previous day at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the bunch coming in behind a solo winner, this time Démare was sprinting for victory.
With late attacker Julien Vermote clinging on in the final few hundred metres, Démare was pressured into launching his sprint early but had to settle for second place as Dylan Groenewegen came round him at the last.
“For sure it’s a disappointment. It’s rare you find yourself with four or five teammates like that at Kuurne. Every year I’m normally a bit isolated, so it was good to have numbers there,” he said.
“But it’s a shame about the sprint. I went too early. I was scared that Vermote would stay away and we’d be playing for second place. He [Groenewegen] was well placed on my wheel and he opened up well, too.
“There you go, as we know, sprints come down to fine margins. But he’s in great form at the moment. He’s smashing all his races at the moment. I’m a bit behind maybe, but I’m hoping to have a good March and April.”
In a Sprinter-Classics rider Venn diagram, Démare would find himself somewhere in the middle. Most closely associated with big bunch sprints, he always places an emphasis on the one-day races of the spring.
Winner of Milan-San Remo in 2016 and sixth at Paris-Roubaix last year, he also feels at home on the cobbles and bergs of northern, and indeed he committed wholeheartedly to the Flandrien style of racing of Kuurne. Rather than simply waiting and hoping the peloton would regroup by the finishing circuit, he rode aggressively and made it into what looked for a while like a race-defining selection after the Oude Kwaremont.
“I made efforts to follow on the Oude Kwaremont, and was in a good group of 20 for a while. I was always in the game today,” he said.
“I hope I’m progressing each year. I love these races, I love Omloop het Nieuwsblad, I love Kuurne. When you’re already in the battle 100 kilometres from the finish, I like that style of racing, despite being a sprinter. I like to be on the offensive. I love these races.”