Giro d'Italia

Arnaud Démare emerges as most successful racer since return from COVID racing stop

The French national champion has emerged as the most successful rider in 2020.

Arnaud Démare didn’t get his wish of racing the Tour de France, but he has done something else instead.

The French national champion has emerged as the most successful rider in 2020.

Démare dashed to victory Thursday in stage 6 at the Giro d’Italia, good for his 12th victory in 2020. And something that even sets him apart from others so far this year — all of those wins have come since the peloton slotted back into gear following an unprecedented stoppage in March.

“This is amazing,” Démare said Thursday after his second Giro stage win inside of a week. “It was an incredibly hard finish. I lost position but I didn’t go crazy, I got back up, followed Astana, stayed on their wheels, and then I kept following them. I launched the sprint and can’t believe I won it.”

Démare might not believe it, but everyone else should start seeing him as the wheel to follow in the sprints in this Giro.

After returning at the Vuelta a Burgos in August, where he did not win despite two second-place finishes. But since then, Démare has been on a tear. He won Milano-Torino, two stages and the overall at the Tour de Wallonie before the French national title. After team boss Marc Madiot left him home for the Tour de France, in order to back a GC push for Thibaut Pinot, Démare didn’t pout.

Instead, the Groupama-FDJ sprinter kept on winning. So, instead of racing the Tour, he won three stages and the overall at Poitou-Charentes, and one stage at the Tour de Luxembourg before barnstorming into the Giro.

“I said if I won the first one, there’d be more,” Démare said. “It’s good to win early and feel good. We tried and now we’ve shaken off the pressure. I’m super happy to win like this. It was risky, and I didn’t think there’d be a chance for a sprint and that Bora would control the race. At 200m, I said I’d go for it and it worked out. Thanks to the team who trusted me and led me.”

The victory haul puts him ahead of Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Emirates) and Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who each boast nine wins in 2020. Both of them won before and after the lockdown.

Also Thursday, he pulled ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the points jersey category at the Giro. With a few more sprints to go, Démare could keep adding to his victory haul before the month is out.

If he keeps this up, it will be hard to leave him off the squad for the 2021 Tour de France.