Arnaud Démare (FDJ) returned to action for the first time since winning Milan-San Remo, with a low-key showing at E3 Harelbeke on Friday. However the Frenchman will expect to be to the fore once again at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday as he continues his build-up to Paris-Roubaix.
No Frenchman has won the Hell of the North since Démare’s directeur sportif, Frédéric Guesdon, sprang an upset by winding up his sprint from distance on the Roubaix velodrome in 1997. FDJ is managed by another former Paris-Roubaix victor: Marc Madiot (winner in 1985 and 1991)and he has been priming Démare for glory on the pavé since he turned professional in 2012.
While Démare’s victory in Milan-San Remo was FDJ’s first in a Monument Classic since its inaugural season in 1997, Madiot is not ready for his rider to sit on his laurels.
“We’ll be a bit more relaxed having won Milan-San Remo, but Paris-Roubaix remains a big objective for this year and for the years to come,” Madiot told Cyclingnews in Harelbeke on Friday. “He doesn’t need any specific race conditions to win: he’s got the profile of a rider who can do well at Paris-Roubaix.”
The truism often offered by Classics winners is that the first such victory is the hardest to achieve, but Madiot took a prosaic view of the notion that the 24-year-old Démare’s triumph on the Via Roma last weekend would mark a watershed of sorts for his career.
“It doesn’t change anything, you still have the same pain in your legs the next day,” Madiot said. “Of course it gives some more confidence, but when you’re racing again the following weekend, the computer goes back to zero and you start from scratch again. That’s how we work.”
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