Démare bests Bouhanni to claim French road title

Arnaud Démare outsprints rival Nacer Bouhanni to claim the French national road race championship in Saint-Omer on Sunday.

SAINT-OMER, France (AFP) — The script seemed written beforehand. The championship of France crowned Arnaud Démare (FDJ) as its national champion on Sunday in Saint-Omer.

Démare, who also won in 2014, beat his rival Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) again in a sprint finish at the end of the 248-kilometer road race, which featured 16 laps of a 15.5km circuit. Third place went to Jérémy Leveau, while Pierre-Luc Périchon crossed the line in fourth.

“The team controlled the race from start to finish,” explained Démare, who also won the Belgian semi-classic Halle-Ingooigem four days ago. “It was the key to my success. It’s really a collective effort.

“I’m really proud of my teammates.”

The 25-year-old has already won a “monument” in cycling — Milan-Sanremo (2016) — but the former world champion hopes (2011) is still waiting for his first stage victory in the Tour de France.

“I’m going to ride the Grande Boucle with the tricolor jersey. I am very happy, “added the new national champion.

Aided by wind in the sprint, Démare imposed his will on Bouhanni, who seeks to regain his best form after his serious fall in late April. The 26-year-old was unable to outmuscle his great rival who took him towards the middle of the pavement in the sprint.

Démare succeeds Arthur Vichot, last year’s winner at Vesoul. His win continues FDJ’s domination at the national race with victories in five of the last six editions.   Neither Bryan Coquard nor Arnaud Petit, the two main assets of the team Direct Energie, could not compete for the win.

“I did not have the legs,” said Coquard, whose Tour de France is uncertain. His tense relations with manager Jean-René Bernaudeau following his decision to leave the team at the end of the season could compromise his participation in the Tour.