Thursday's 53km-long time trial of the Critérium du Dauphiné was a major test for many top riders, and while some finished it feeling disappointed with their performances, others like winner Bradley Wiggins (Sky) or fifth-placed Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) were greatly satisfied with the outcome. Chavanel conceded 1'33" to Wiggins over the long and windy course, and achieved exactly his objective of making the top five of the stage.
"This result is what I had hoped for. Basically, I wanted a top five. I've come closer to the very best riders, to those who really are the pure specialists like [second-placed] Tony Martin and Wiggins. I'm a tad below them but I'm getting better," a happy Chavanel told L'Equipe at the finish in Bourg-en-Bresse.
"I chose to start out really fast. But then I lost a little bit of concentration, also because I lost my water bottle and with the heat, this unsettled me a bit. I was looking forward to get to the feed zone. At long time trials like this one, you have to try to remain fully concentrated throughout the whole course... Still, compared to guys like Tony and Wiggins, I limited my losses."
It was a rewarding feeling for the Frenchman as he had announced his intention to work on his time trialling skills in the beginning of the season. Also, the back problems he had for several seasons seem to be definitely out of the way. "I've tried to concentrate to a maximum on this discipline, which I love since I started my career. This time trial confirms the work I've done and that the pain I had in my lower back is finally gone. I'm moving closer to the specialists, as this course was really designed for them. With a three-quarters head wind, you had to develop a maximum of power."
Results so far in the Dauphiné have moreover placed Chavanel in fourth position on the general classification, going into the final stages. While the 32-year-old did not reveal his overall objectives for this race, he hoped that his performances in June will be an indicator of top form for the month of July.
""We'll see how I go in the mountain stages," he continued, speaking of the final week-end of the Dauphiné. "Between the favourites, it will be the stage to Morzine [on Saturday] that will make the difference. Other than that, I don't think there will be any splits on the other stages.
"Looking forward, the French time trial Championship is an objective and of course the Tour de France. I hope to come off this race in even better form."