By Hedwig Kröner
Long-time French cycling hopeful Sylvain Chavanel has made his 2007 season start at the Tour Méditerranéen in southern France on February 13. After his team Cofidis already scored the first victory this year at the Etoile de Bessèges stage race, Chavanel is eager to repeat the feat - if not at the Tour Med, then maybe at Paris-Nice or at the dream of every cyclist, the Tour de France later this year.
The 27 year-old is now at an age where he might fulfill the expectations of his team and the public have put in him for a few years. The good time -trialist is hoping to make his breakthrough this year and confirm his talent. "I hope to win races!" he replied to velo101 when asked what his objectives for 2007 were. "No, let's be modest; just wish me a good season. With some success, because I have to. I hope to finally have the success that I didn't get in the last few years."
At the moment, Chavanel is just "testing to see where I stand compared to last season", but he is "eager to measure up against my rivals" at the Tour Med, as well as at the upcoming races. "I don't know exactly how my form is - I'd like to be up front in one of the stages [at the Tour Med] and - why not? - be a factor in the general classification. But I don't have any pressure on this event.
"My first real objective is Paris-Nice. I'd like to race for general classification there, so it means I'll also go for a stage win. After that, I'll compete in the Ardennes Classics: Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège."
Chavanel knows that it is time for him to do just slightly better than his various good placings, and actually win a race in the ProTour. "At the 2006 Tour de France, I just missed out the victory twice in the stages Béziers-Montélimar [3rd] and Gap-L'Alpe d'Huez [7th]. I'm always well-placed in recent years. It will be my eighth Tour this year and I'm starting to get some experience - which is why in 2007 I hope to finally to bag a good one."