Despite assurances he’d be on the start line, Arnaud Démare will not race the 2023 Tour de France after Groupama-FDJ announced they will be “focusing on the mountains.”
The French team have revealed five of their eight-rider squad for the start in Bilbao On July 1, with last year’s fourth place overall David Gaudu supported by Stefan Küng, Kevin Geniets and Valentin Madouas, while Thibaut Pinot will also appear at what will be his final Tour de France following a successful Giro d’Italia campaign where he won the mountains classification.
With Gaudu announcing himself as the next French hope for their home race, Madiot will turn towards supporting the team’s (and country’s) ambitions to feature in the overall at the expense of furthering the sprinting desires of Démare, a two-time stage winner.
“I worked hard for it and had to make certain sacrifices,” Démare told L’Équipe after the news went public.
“This is a second heavy blow, after I was told earlier that my employment at Groupama-FDJ will come to an end. It was not literally said that way, but the message was clear.
“Madiot came to me and said, ‘We can’t keep you.’ That was it. Did I want to stay? I would have liked to have the choice. I felt that there was less and less ambition within the team to invest in a sprint train, but I’ve been here for so long. I thought I meant more to this team. I also really thought I would go to the Tour. My family had already booked a holiday in function of the Tour, my wife already had a hotel for the rest days …”
Démare says he had been promised a spot in the squad as well as one helper to lead him out for the Tour’s many sprinting opportunities, and that he believes the team could have been balanced between himself, Gaudu, and Pinot.
“I am angry and depressed as I worked really hard to be good for the Tour. I had to make certain sacrifices during the winter period. I had known for some time that I would only get one teammate for the sprints. It wasn’t a competition at all between Thibaut and me. A good collaboration with Pinot and also David Gaudu was certainly possible,” he said.
“I knew I would have to work in certain stages. I knew that the team mainly wanted to bet on the [general] classification, but I showed during Paris-Nice that I am a good teammate. I haven’t tried to change Madiot’s mind, it’s no use anyway. I did tell him that this hurts a lot after all these beautiful years. I was emotional. And I hope he understands and feels that too.”
Madiot, who in the recent Netflix Tour series has portrayed himself as more than a ruthless team boss, expressed in a press release that the decision to leave Démare at home was a difficult one.
“Our team will be focusing on the mountains. The objective is of course the general classification with David Gaudu,” Madiot explained in the press release announcing the team lineup. “We’ll also allow ourselves to go on the offensive with Thibaut Pinot, Valentin Madouas, and Stefan Küng. It was a difficult selection to make, especially the decision not to select Arnaud Démare. I can understand his disappointment. I have affinities with the riders, but the interests of the team have to come first. It’s a sporting choice. I’m here to decide which team I think is the most competitive. There are strengths and weaknesses. I take responsibility for those choices.”
With the team’s 19-year-old homegrown talent Lenny Martinez winning the CIC Mont Ventoux Challenge the very same day, this will have only further entrenched Madiot’s doubling down on his dreams of a French rider at least making the podium in Paris.
In an interview with Ouest-France, Madiot said that the rest of Démare’s season had not been decided, but when asked if he would make a contract proposal, stopped short of confirming that Démare’s time with the only pro team he’s ever raced for might be coming to an end. “Financially, it will be complicated” said Madiot. “We have a good budget, but we don’t have the budgets of Ineos, Jumbo, UAE …”
The 31-year-old has been linked with French squad Arkéa-Samsic, who are also rumoured to be close to an agreement with B&B Hotels, a deal that will surely bolster the strength of their squad and the French sprinter would be full to the brim with motivation to bring that team their first-ever Tour de France stage win.
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