Sylvain Chavanel has had a break from racing since the Spring Classics, but come back to competition in top shape as his Critérium du Dauphiné prologue result has showed on Sunday. The Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider finished eighth in the 5.7km time trial, six seconds adrift of winner Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge). Chavanel is known to be a classy time triallist but his result is all the impressive as the Frenchman was also amongst the last riders to start on the Grenoble course, experiencing less favourable weather conditions to those who had preceded him.
That said, Chavanel was not completely satisfied with his performance. "I think I can do better. It was a good prologue but my objective was the top five. But I won't complain because I haven't raced since April 25. So for a return to competition it's not that bad. I was a bit apprehensive because even good training rides cannot replace racing. But I'm here at the start feeling fresh and I hope to improve my condition throughout the race," he told L'Equipe.
A rainshower mid-way through the stage, as well as wind picking up in the afternoon, disadvanted some riders during the prologue. "It's true that when it started raining, my morale dropped somewhat," Chavanel continued. "But the wind that started blowing dried the roads very quickly, and that made me bouce back."
The 32-year-old is starting his second peak of the 2012 season, preparing for the French Championships and even more so the Tour de France, where he has already won three stages in the past. But the Dauphiné itself could also be a target for Chavanel, as its course this year features less high mountains and a 53km time trial mid-week.
"If I have good sensations, I will target the victory, quite simply, " he announced. "I feel fresh and I'm eager to race." The medium mountain course could suit Chavanel, but the most challenging stage on Saturday also features the Col de Joux-Plane (11,7 km at 8,4 percent), which will make a selection even if it is located 12 kilometres from the finish in Morzine.