Marc Madiot: "It's possible for a young rider to finish on the podium"


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17 years after Frédéric Guesdon took the most recent French win, during Française des Jeux's first season (1997), lots of people are awaiting 22-year-old Gent-Wevelgem runner-up Arnaud Démare's breakthrough moment... but Paris-Roubaix seems to be made for riders in their thirties. boss Marc Madiot is categorical: "Yes, of course, even today a young rider can finish on the podium of Paris–Roubaix. It all depends on the race circumstances." Doing well in the Queen of Classics is a matter of endurance, experience… and luck, something Arnaud Démare has been short on ever since he became a pro. In 2012, still in the afterglow of the under-23 World Championships title that hinted at a bright future for him in the world of power sprinters, he had to stay at home after taking a tumble and injuring his wrist at the Three Days of De Panne. "Last year", he reminisces, "I ran out of luck when I had a flat inside the first cobbled sector."
"Without this puncture, Arnaud would have finished his first Paris–Roubaix in the top 20", Marc Madiot tells himself. The Picard is tailor-cut for the Northern classics, as he showed with his recent second place in Gent–Wevelgem, a result Madiot nevertheless describes as "not surprising". He says it had no effect on Démare's confidence or his build-up to Paris–Roubaix.
"I'm passionate about this race", explains the rider from Beauvais, who rode for Team Wasquehal as a junior and spent most of his development on the Northern cycling scene. "Cobblestones play to my strengths, I'm not afraid of them. The big classics are a dream for me. I'm more than just a sprinter. I'm also pugnacious and have lots of stamina."
The race circumstances mentioned by Marc Madiot, whether favourable for young riders or for battle-hardened veterans, include the hectic first two hours. Last year, the pace was brutal, as breakaway after breakaway failed to stick. But, once again, Madiot does not believe that younger, greener and therefore more fragile riders will be at a disadvantage before hitting the cobbled sectors: "Following the wheels, it's the same for everyone", he says. "And, this year, riders in the Flemish classics tend to ride defensively." will probably use the same tactic for Démare: "We want to keep him safe as long as possible", warns Madiot. "At any rate, the favourites know he's one of the fastest men in the peloton and won't be glad to take him with them. If he doesn't run into trouble, his final place will also depend on how the race plays out. If a rider is head and shoulders above the rest, like Tom Boonen two years ago, it will provide an opening for a young rider to finish high. Sébastien Turgot capitalised on that to take second, but it could also have been Matthieu Ladagnous, who had a flat in the last sector. Boonen finished third in Paris–Roubaix at the age of 22 (in 2002), and it's just as possible for Démare to repeat the exploit this year. In any case, I'm expecting a top 10 place from him." may have come up short in the Velodrome these last two years, but last season it clinched the Grand Slam of all four professional races held in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais: the GP de Denain, the Four Days of Dunkirk and the GP d'Isbergues with Arnaud Démare and the GP de Fourmies with Nacer Bouhanni. "There's one missing from the collection", pointed out Marc Madiot in autumn, "but we're leaving it for next year…"

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