One day after he won Milan-San Remo with a superb finishing sprint Arnaud Démare has defended himself against allegations that he received an illegal tow after crashing. It is a manoeuvre which, if true, would have changed the outcome of the race.
Démare crashed prior to the ascent of the Cipressa and was one of a number of riders who were delayed at a crucial point prior to that climb and inside the final 30 kilometres. Australian favourite Michael Matthews was another who was delayed and said his race was ruined as a result.
According to Astana’s Eros Capechi and Tinkoff rider Matteo Tosatto, Démare passed them both on the climb, moving past unnaturally fast and – allegedly – holding onto the FDJ team car.
“Before the Cipressa, Demare was off the back,” said Tosatto to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “On the climb he passed us at double our speed attached to his car. I did not see if it was the window or with a water bottle.
“His sprint went well, of course. But without that tow, the sprint there would never have happened. I’ve never seen something done so shamelessly.”
He added that other riders were nearby and they had also seen it.
Capecchi is the second to come forward, and also made similar claims. “Démare was climbing at 80 kilometres per hour. That’s unheard of. I was on Tosatto’s wheel, I saw it all very well. Démare was clinging onto the right of the team car.”
Démare published his Strava file from the race and the data of the Cipressa clocks him as the quickest, some three seconds ahead of Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and 15 seconds faster than former Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky).
The fact that he is a sprinter and not a climber is something that some may feel add weight to the claims.
Strava flyby of a sample of riders and Démare (black) just before the Cipressa where the crash took place, and over it. It’s impossible to tell by this data alone. Releasing his power file will be the only thing that makes this go away. Note that Démare’s Strava file was originally posted, taken down, then reposted. This flyby from the reposted file.
For his part, Démare has strongly denied doing anything wrong. “I have nothing to reproach myself about,” he told l’Equipe. “I have done nothing wrong. There are judges in cycling. If I had done something forbidden, I would have been disqualified.”
He points to Michael Matthews, saying that the Australian also worked hard to get back on. “He rode like me in the line of cars. It’s always been part of cycling; we benefit from the slipstream of cars. We are sheltered from the wind there.”
Démare response is consequently that the chasing riders were behind the cars, but did not hold on. “It is not forbidden,” he insists.
The former world under 23 champion claims his rivals are jealous of his success, saying that resentment has cropped up since FDJ took third place in the team time trial in Tirreno-Adriatico and he won a stage in Paris-Nice.
The Frenchman’s Strava file gives more details of the 5.6 kilometre climb of the Cipressa. He scaled it at an average speed of 33.7 kilometres per hour, and with a maximum speed of 52.2 kilometres per hour. This is obviously far off the 80 kilometres per hour claimed by Capecchi.
Orica-GreenEdge rider Simon Yates gave a point of his own data. It appears to led weight to Démare’s version of events.
@ammattipyoraily I had 54.2kph max when behind the cars at the top……
— Simon Yates (@SimonYatess) March 20, 2016
According to Demaré’s directeur sportif Frédéric Guesdon, the rider took a bottle but did nothing illegal. He categorically rejects the claims.
“The circumstances were such that after the fall, Arnaud Démare ended up with us on the climb of the Cipressa,” he told l’Equipe. “He was accompanied by us, but we were in the line of cars, and everyone was tail to tail.
“He asked for a bottle, and it was the mechanic, who was on my right, who passed it to him. But he did not hold onto it, no. There is no need to exaggerate.
“I do not even see how that was possible when there were all the cars around us and there was a motorcycle commissaire. And besides, we were never alone in the Cipressa.”
He noted out that the riders complaining were with the Tinkoff and Astana team; in other words, his point is that they were working for race favourites Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali, who lost out on their bids to win the race. “I bet if Matthews, who was chasing with Arnaud, had won, it is them who they would have accused. This is part of the intricacies of Italian races, especially when the winner is not Italian. There was no cheating.”
Media reports have suggested that the race judge Herve Borcque was told of the claims but in the absence of proof, has not taken the matter further.
The FDJ team has said that it will consider releasing Démare’s power data in order to show the rider is telling the truth.
In the meantime, Capechi and Tosatto seem convinced otherwise.