Arnaud Démare has been forced to make a further delay to the start of his season after he contracted COVID-19 ahead of the Volta ao Algarve.
The Frenchman had initially been scheduled to make his 2023 debut at the Tour of Antalya last week, but the race was cancelled in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
Démare was subsequently pencilled in to ride the Volta ao Algarve, but he was not included in the line-up announced by Groupama-FDJ on Monday. L’Équipe reported on Tuesday afternoon that Démare had not fully recovered from a COVID-19 infection he contracted last week.
It is expected that Démare will now start his season at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on February 26 before lining out at Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. Démare was the last rider to win La Primavera in a bunch sprint when he beat Ben Swift to the line in 2016.
Winner of three stages and the points jerseys at last year’s Giro d’Italia, Démare finished 2022 on a high note with victory at Paris-Tours. Although Groupama-FDJ dispensed with key elements of his lead-out train during the off-season, the 31-year-old has signalled his desire to clock up his 100th career victory – his running tally is 91 – and return to the Tour de France in 2023.
Last month, Groupama-FDJ’s Tour GC leader David Gaudu issued an apology to Démare after comments he made about the sprinter on the Discord platform were leaked on social media. “Me, I don’t want him to come to the Tour,” Gaudu had written in the chatroom on January 20, adding: “Good Netflix or not, I don’t care.”
Groupama-FDJ have sent the core of their Classics squad to the Volta ao Algarve, where Stefan Küng leads the line. The Swiss rider is joined in the team by Valentin Madouas, Jake Stewart, Lewis Askey, Miles Scotson, Olivier Le Gac and Paul Penhoët.
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