Quick Step attacker builds up fitness in Mallorca and Portugal
Now in his third season with Quick Step, Sylvain Chavanel is looking to improve on a strong 2010 and has Paris-Nice and the Spring Classics in his sights.
After his first 2011 race in Gabon, Africa, Chavanel flew to the Mallorca Challenge on Sunday, where he will be able to compare his state of form with fellow European riders and possible rivals during the next few weeks.
"[The Tropicale Amissa Bongo] was a beautiful experience," he told Velochrono. "I was surprised by the Africans' level and I think we will soon see them in European races, too. Now, I hope to get fit fast, but I know from experience that I'm never very competitive in my first races, I explode all the time. I need a few days for proper performances and results."
The series of one-day races on the Spanish island are not an objective for Chavanel, who prefers to peak in March for one of his favourite events, Paris-Nice, where he is a regular stage and overall contender.
"I want to be really competitive at Paris-Nice, to fight for the general classification as I have been doing these past few years. I'm still hungry to win this race."
Another milestone for perfect fitness for the "race to the sun" will be the Tour of Portugal. Chavanel finished second in the stage race in 2008 and in 2009, "behind some very good riders" [Stijn Devolder and Alberto Contador - ed.] and hopes to put insome performances there again this year.
A first test on the Belgian cobbles at the end of February at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will also reveal Chavanel's progress in view of the Spring Classics. While he hopes to be in the mix for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix again later this spring, he sets himself realistic goals.
A victory in "any kind of race over 250 kilometres" would suit him, but if he had to choose, he'd go for Gent-Wevelgem. "This is a race that matches my characteristics. Last year, at all the great Classics, I was in front for the victory... But I lack this final touch of finishing speed to win over a group of 30 riders. I've never won a sprint, I don't have this speciality in me."
"So to win races, I only have one other solution, which is to attack. But it takes a lot of energy and it's hard to manage the effort."
This year, Chavanel will not take part in the GP E3 Harelbeke, traditionally held on the eve of Gent-Wevelgem. "Last year, I got 22nd [in Gent-Wevelgem], and I had raced the day before in Harelbeke,"he explained, hoping that this change will give him extra power to achieve his goal.
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