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The Frenchman's victory underscored his credentials for Milan-San Remo on Saturday, while the Strade Bianche winner Van Aert's late surge was a further indication of his sparkling form ahead of the week's main event.
A crash that briefly split the peloton with 8km to go made for a breathless finale, but Démare's Groupama-FDJ squad was sufficiently organised to lead into the final kilometre, although it was Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) who opened the sprint with an effort from distance. The three-time world champion faded to fourth in the closing metres, however, as Démare streaked past and then held off Ewan to claim the spoils.
With Milano-Torino falling just three days before La Classicissima on the revised UCI calendar, the route of the event was altered accordingly, with the uphill finale in Superga removed in favour of a pan flat run to Stupinigi that afforded Démare to emulate his teammate Thibaut Pinot as a winner of the race.
"The calendar was a bit thrown out by the current situation, but it's good to be racing again and I had a very good return to competition at the Vuelta a Burgos," Démare said. "The team was very good, and we knew today was a good chance for us.
"We really know one another very well, and that's a good thing. We did a three-week camp and the whole team was in good form, Burgos confirmed that. We're not afraid of anyone. I feel very well."
A bunch finish was always the likely outcome in Stupinigi, site of the 18th-century hunting lodge of the House of Savoy, and the race largely followed the anticipated script, though there was late drama when several riders came down in a crash after Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) clipped a traffic island on the run-in. Sam Bennett also lost Michael Mørkøv in the incident – though, unlike Lampaert, the Dane was able to finish the race – and the Irish champion sat up in the finishing straight to place outside the top 10.
He was not the only fast man left with too much ground to recoup in the finishing straight, with with Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) having to settle for 6th and 7th, respectively. They will hope for better at Milan-San Remo on Saturday. Démare, winner in 2016 and third in 2018, has already shown his pedigree on the Via Roma. His turn of pace in Stupinigi was an indication of his form – but so, too, was Van Aert's.
"It's one of my very big ambitions, I'm not going to hide that," Démare said. "The team is good and I feel good."
How it unfolded
Milano-Torino has oscillated between Spring and Autumn for much of its history, but the revised 2020 season saw the oldest extant bicycle race in the world shift to an August date as the calendar was hastily rearranged around the rescheduled Classics and Grand Tours.
This summertime Milano-Torino was not an entirely new departure. The first-ever edition was held in May 1876, after all, and in its intermittent early history, the event was held in the warmer months, before settling on a firmer, pre-Milan-San Remo slot in the 1930s.
In more recent times, Milano-Torino has largely – though not exclusively – been part of the rosy-hued preamble to the grand finale of the Italian season, Il Lombardia, with a route carefully tailored to match. Since its return to the calendar after a four-year hiatus in 2012, the finish line had been perched upon the hill of Superga overlooking Turin.
With Milano-Torino stitched into the 2020 calendar ahead of Saturday's Milan-San Remo, however, the route was altered to fit the circumstances. Superga was excised from the parcours, with the gruppo only gently skirting the hills of Monferrato en route to the Piemontese capital.
A bunch sprint seemed preordained when the peloton assembled at the start in Mesero, just west of Milan, but that didn't deter a determined group of attackers forging clear inside the opening 20km.
Andrea Garosio (Vini Zabù-KTM), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Davide Villella (Movistar), Gijs Van Hoecke (CCC), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) and Samuele Rivi (Italy) established a maximum buffer of 7 minutes after 50km before the sprinters' teams began to bring in the hem of their advantage.
Deceuninck-QuickStep, Lotto Soudal, Groupama-FDJ, Arkéa-Samsic, Bora-Hansgrohe and UAE Team Emirates all contributed to the pursuit at various points, an arrangement that seemed to suit all parties. The sprinters were effectively guaranteed their shot at victory at Stupinigi, while men like Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) were able to bank 200, brisk kilometres of racing in agreeable sunshine as they build towards Milan-San Remo at the weekend.
The break's advantage began to unravel gently as the race passed through the wine country in the hinterland of Asti and their lead was a threadbare 1:45 by the time they reached the final 40km. Garosio sat up shortly afterwards, and though his five erstwhile companions looked to delay the inevitable, their lead had shrunk to within a minute with 20km remaining.
The break fragmented shortly afterwards, when Samuele Rivi, the 22-year-old of the Italian national team attacked, bringing the strongman of the move, Manuele Boaro, with him. Boaro pressed on alone with 11km to go, by which point his lead had slipped to just 27 seconds and he was swept up soon afterwards.
A mass sprint ensued. Démare hit all the right lines ahead of Milan-San Remo, but in this singular season, all will have benefited from the dress rehearsal.
Rider Name (Country) Team
Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal
Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma
Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Circus-Wanty Gobert
Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
Fernando Gaviria Rendon (Col) UAE Team Emirates
Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Dion Smith (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott
Ben Swift (GBr) Team Ineos
Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R la Mondiale
Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R la Mondiale
Mathieu Van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix
Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-Up Nation
Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R la Mondiale
Umberto Marengo (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
Alexander Konychev (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert
Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck-Quickstep
Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix
Martin Marcellusi (Ita) Italy
Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-Quickstep
Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ
Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
Filippo Ganna (Ita) Team Ineos
Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates
Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ
Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Circus-Wanty Gobert
Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
Christian Knees (Ger) Team Ineos
Iuri Filosi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Israel Start-Up Nation
Michele Gazzoli (Ita) Italy
Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Ineos
Leonardo Marchiori (Ita) Italy
Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ
Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal
Timo Roosen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
Sacha Modolo (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix
Shane Archbold (NZl) Deceuninck-Quickstep
Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
Leonardo Basso (Ita) Team Ineos
Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma
Tosh Van der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
Marco Frapporti (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
Nicola Venchiarutti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Nicola Bagioli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
Damiano Cima (Ita) Gazprom-Rusvelo
Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) CCC Team
Filippo Conca (Ita) Italy
Juri Hollmann (Ger) Movistar Team
Giovanni Aleotti (Ita) Italy
Jhonatan Restrepo Valencia (Col) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Team
Alex Dowsett (GBr) Israel Start-Up Nation
Senne Leysen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
Daniil Fominykh (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
Einer Augusto Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar Team
Stepan Kuriyanov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
Tsgabu Gebremaryam Grmay (Eth) Mitchelton-Scott
Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R la Mondiale
Gabriel Cullaigh (GBr) Movistar Team
Daniel Savini (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal
Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
Jhonatan Manuel Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Team Ineos
Kevin Colleoni (Ita) Italy
Nicolas Dalla Valle (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team
Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck-Quickstep
Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal
Zhandos Bizhigitov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
Imerio Cima (Ita) Gazprom-Rusvelo
Mathias Norsgaard Jørgensen (Den) Movistar Team
Lawrence Warbasse (USA) AG2R la Mondiale
Francisco Jose Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) CCC Team
Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
Michael Albasini (Swi) Mitchelton-Scott
Alessandro Iacchi (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
Ian Garrison (USA) Deceuninck-Quickstep
Cameron Meyer (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
Omer Goldstein (Isr) Israel Start-Up Nation
Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana Pro Team
Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep
Davide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Pro Team
Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team
Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Pro Team
Andrea Garosio (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
Koen De Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
Jasper De Plus (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert
Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
Antonio Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) CCC Team
Simone Velasco (Ita) Gazprom-Rusvelo
Marco Canola (Ita) Gazprom-Rusvelo
Alfdan De Decker (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert
Paul Martens (Ger) Team Jumbo-Visma
Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
Jakub Mareczko (Ita) CCC Team
Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal
Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team
Scott Thwaites (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix
Clément Russo (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
Florian Vachon (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
Daniel McLay (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic
Laurent Pichon (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
Thomas Boudat (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) CCC Team
Oscar Gatto (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
Mattia Viel (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Alessandro Pessot (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Vini Zabu' KTM
Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
Davide Villella (Ita) Movistar Team
Jan Bakelants (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert
Alexander Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
Robert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
Romain Le Roux (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
Samuele Rivi (Ita) Italy
Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal
Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) CCC Team
Kévin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ
Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama-FDJ
Fabio Mazzucco (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation
Igor Boev (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
Timothy Dupont (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert
Luca Pacioni (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Ethan Hayter (GBr) Team Ineos
Tom Bohli (Swi) UAE Team Emirates
Clement Davy (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep
Denis Nekrasov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo