Démare was dropped almost immediately after the start of the stage in Bagnères-de-Luchon and rode on his own for much of the day as he fought to make the time cut which was set at 35-21 behind stage winner Nairo Quintana.
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The French sprinter would eventually cross the line at the top of the Col de Portet 29-16 behind Quintana, comfortably making the time cut, and actually wasn’t in last place on the day with Mitchelton-Scott‘s Michael Hepburn more than two minutes behind.
However Greipel, watching the race at home after abandoning on stage 12, clearly believed that Démare had held on to cars to help him make the time cut.
In a tweet that has since been deleted, Greipel posted a screenshot from the Tour’s live tracking site showing Démare 20-32 behind the front of the race at the base of the final climb with the caption: “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”
The hashtag #notforthefirsttime is a reference to the 2016 edition of Milan-San Remo which Démare won in a sprint ahead of Ben Swift. However his win was overshadowed by allegations from other riders that he had held on to cars while climbing the Cipressa in order to recover from a crash, allegations which Démare has denied and were never proven.
In response to Greipel’s tweet, Démare responded to say that he had been watched by commissaires throughout the race, and that he would send his data from his ride to Greipel for the German to cast his eye over.
Analysis of Démare’s GPS data by Twitter user @Velofacts showed that the French sprinter had consistently lost time on all three of the day’s climbs, and had in fact lost time more quickly on the final climb of the day.
On Thursday morning Greipel took the decision to delete his original tweet, and also issue an apology to Démare saying that he had got the times wrong about the final climb and that he shouldn’t have tweeted about an event that he wasn’t able to witness.
Démare will be hoping for an easier day on stage 18 to Pau, which has only two small climbs and should end in a bunch sprint.