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A hectic final week at the Vuelta

Sylvain Chavanel
September 07, 2011, 14:40 BST,
September 07, 2011, 15:38 BST
Vuelta a EspaƱa

Chasing a win in the Basque Country

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)

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Hello everybody,

Imagine riding a Grand Tour and the first real flat stage for the sprinters comes after the second rest day, six days before the end of the race. Crazy, but this is the Vuelta.

I feel okay, tired of course, but it could be worse. On the rest day, I was able to recover well - we had an excellent hotel that included thalassotherapy, so I spent the day on a massage table. Afterwards there were hot and cold baths, things like that. The day went by really fast. I didn't touch the bike at all!

It was just what I needed after the Angliru. I knew this climb from 2008. It's 12 kilometres long, and at the bottom it's still a normal pass of 8 or 9 percent. After that it flattens out a bit and then there are four really difficult kilometres, all between 17 and 23 percent. I used a 34x29... It's really spectacular.

When you watch the TV images, you can see that even the best riders are in slow motion on this section. So imagine what it's like further back. I won't hide that the public pushed us a bit, you can't avoid it anyway. I had been dropped on the penultimate climb, so I just rode the Angliru at my own pace, tranquillo.

But you know, this is not the hardest climb of all. I've been told that the Zoncolan in Italy is worse: there, the hard bit that is as steep as the Angliru is not four kilometres long, but ten. Unbelievable.

We've come to the final week but the race is not over. On Wednesday, the final climb will probably see a last fight for GC, as it's six kilometres at an average of ten percent - including parts up to 19 percent. Another terrible climb, and it could see some bigger gaps. It's certainly not over for Cobo yet!

For me as an attacker, the last few stages until Saturday are all hilly and well-suited to breakaways, so the battle will be on. But it will be difficult to get away. Until now, there haven't been a lot of escapes that have gone to the finish, and moreover there haven't been many winning teams yet. There have been a number of double stage wins, for example Liquigas and Cofidis, while Katusha have even scored a triple! They say that everybody is tired, but the stage starts are just as fast as in the beginning of the race. And honestly, I don't know which team will control the race, so I reckon it will be hectic.

I like the Basque country, the climbs are not too steep – the sort of ascents where you have to use a big gear. I'll try to find the right moment to attack; I tried before, but of course they won't let me get away so easily... It's also not easy to remain focused mentally. What gives me motivation is my objective. So wish me luck...




Sylvain Chavanel

French national champion Sylvain Chavanel (Quickstep), a veteran of 13 Grand Tours will be sharing his experiences and insights as he rides the 2011 Vuelta a Espana. Chavanel has won 38 races in his career, including multiple stages of the Tour de France. A noted time trialist, Chavanel has shown his versatility in recent years, and has developed into one of the strongest cobbled Classics riders in the peloton. The 32-year-old has had a lean 2011 season by his own lofty standards and will be looking to have a successful Vuelta as he prepares for the UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen.

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