At Dwars door Vlaanderen years ago,Sylvain Chavanel was the foil who helped his then-Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammate Niki Terpstra slip away to victory. This time around – and now in the colours of IAM Cycling – Chavanel was a rival trying to follow Terpstra on the Paterberg, but he admitted afterwards that the Dutchman was simply in imperious form as he claimed the win in Waregem.
"There was nothing to be done against Terpstra today," said Chavanel, who finished the day in 5th place, near the front of the chasing group that came home 17 seconds down on Terpstra.
"I didn’t have good sensations at all at the start, but eventually everything improved as the day went on. So this 5th place finish augurs well and I’ll take it without any regrets."
During his time at QuickStep, Chavanel was regularly sent out on the offensive ahead of the finale in the Classics as his personal ambitions were often sacrificed in the service of Tom Boonen. At IAM Cycling, by contrast, the role of early attacker falls to others, and on Wednesday Chavanel was delegated to keep his powder dry for the final salvoes.
Aleksejs Saramotins was part of the day’s early break, and was still off the front when Terpstra launched his winning move over the crest of the Paterberg. "He tried to follow Terpstra up the Paterberg, but he just didn’t have the reserves for an effort like that," said directeur sportif Eddy Seigneur. "That didn’t prevent him from providing invaluable assistance to Chavanel in the lead-up to the final sprint."
Chavanel had been one of the first riders to follow Tom Boonen when he launched a testing effort on the slopes of the Taaienberg with 52 kilometres to race – Boonen was compensating, perhaps, for his failure to the do likewise on the same climb at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last month.
Chavanel was again well-positioned on the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, when Ian Stannard (Sky) and then Terpstra forced the issue, but he couldn’t match the Dutchman’s surge over the summit of the climb. QuickStep’s patrolling of the peloton meant that a cohesive pursuit of Terpstra never truly materialised – the best effort came from a group featuring Stijn Devolder and Alejandro Valverde – and Chavanel ultimately had to settle for trying his luck in the sprint for second place.
"It wasn’t bad at all if you consider that I finished 4th in a sprint where I was there with guys like [Tyler] Farrar, [Borut] Bozic, [Oscar] Gatto and [Yauheni] Hutarovich," said Chavanel, who will hope for more at E3 Harelbeke on Friday. "Sure, this is only a minor placing but I’m racing again in two days."