Paris-Tours: Démare says he’s closing the gap to Degenkolb

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Speaking in advance of Sunday’s Paris-Tours, a race known as the Sprinters’ Classic, young French contender Arnaud Démare has expressed growing confidence about his prospects and also his place amongst the fast men of cycling.

The 23 year old has clocked up 15 wins thus far this year. He was victorious on stage 6 of the Tour of Qatar, took two stages plus the overall in both the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Tour de Picardie, then won Halle Ingooigem and the French road race championships.

After making a solid Tour de France debut where he was third on two stages, he has returned to the top of the podium in recent weeks. He proved best in the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen and the GP d’Isbergues and clocked up three stages plus the final overall victory in the Tour de l’Eurométropole.

That success race puts him just one victory behind Andre Greipel’s 2014 record total of 16 for the year; given that the German has already stopped competing this season, Démare has the chance to equal him on Sunday, and to move into the lead if he decides to race beyond that.

John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) won last year’s Paris-Tours and has been one of the quickest this year. However Démare believes he is getting closer and that victory on Sunday is possible.

“It would be great, that’s for sure. I do my utmost to win on all the races,” the 2013 RideLondon Classic winner said. “But that will also be the main goal for Degenkolb. He did very well on the Vuelta and finished in a very respectable position at the World Championships. It proves that he is on form, but then again, so am I.

“I can feel the gap closing. Last year, I finished third and so I wasn’t far off victory. This year, if the team is a bit more present on the finish and I’m feeling good, I think I’ll have a great chance.”

Démare’s first Tour de France took more out of him than he might have expected; he admits that he was affected for some time afterwards.

“It was quite difficult to recover. In fact, I raced in the Tour of Limousin and the Hamburg classic, in which I didn’t have much success. Afterwards, I took a proper break for a week and then got back to work gently via weight training sessions. As a result, I built my strength back up and started to enjoy myself again on the bike.

“I’ve been alternating between rest and work which has enabled me to reach the end of the season in good form, just like last year.”

Even so, he didn’t expect to be as successful as he has been in those recent events. Six wins since September 19 have put his confidence on a high, and help fuel his belief that he can top the podium on Sunday.

“I even surprised myself by winning all these races,” he admits. “It’s not easy to explain, but I’m feeling great and it’s a wonderful feeling to raise my arms as I cross the line wearing the blue, white and red jersey. I think it provides me with even more motivation to prolong the season.

“However, I preferred to drop out of the team for Paris-Bourges, because after all the effort I put in on the Tour of Eurométropole, I thought it would be better to save some energy for this weekend.”

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