Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) has defended himself from insinuations by André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) that he had accepted a tow to finish inside the time limit on stage 17 of the Tour de France, the short but viciously tough Pyrenean leg to the Col du Portet.
Speaking on Thursday Démare said that he had been “hurt” by Greipel’s accusation. Although the German deleted his tweet and later apologised, Démare told reporters in Trie-sur-Baïse that it had come too late.
“Unfortunately, his apology doesn’t do a whole lot because the damage is done,” Démare said ahead of stage 18. “It’s opened a door for people to doubt. Now people will think what they want. But there are more commissaires this year, there is the video commissaire this year as well, which means they are omnipresent.”
Démare was distanced on the lower ramps of Wednesday’s first climb, the Col du Peyresourde, and spent the rest of the 65km leg alone at the back of the race. He reached the finish in 145th and penultimate place on the stage, 29:16 down on winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar), but six minutes inside the time limit.
Shortly after the stage, Greipel – who was one of many sprinters to leave the Tour in the Alps after it was clear he would fail to finish inside time limit – published a Twitter post which cast a sceptical eye over Démare’s feat of survival. “Maybe someone should tell @GroupamaFDJ and @ArnaudDemare that there is GPS tracking in @LeTour. Chapeau to lose just 9min on a 17km climb on Quintana #notforthefirsttime,” wrote Greipel.
Démare’s 2016 victory at Milan-San Remo was followed by accusations that he had held onto a team car after getting caught up in a crash at the base of the Cipressa. Both Démare and his team forcefully denied that allegation, and on Wednesday evening, he responded to Greipel via Twitter.
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