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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)
No regrets as to Quick Step move
Sylvain Chavanel's objectives for this year are clear, and he isn't afraid to talk about them. "I want to win Paris-Nice this season," he told Cyclingnews on the eve of the official presentation of his Quick Step team. "After that, I want to score at least one Classic."
The French rider is motivated, and his pre-season preparation has been going well. "I've got 5,000 kilometres in my legs right now - about the same amount as last year at the same time. We made up for the bad weather conditions in Northern Europe at the training camp in Calpe. It was good to train is the sun."
Chavanel will start his 2010 racing programme on the island of Mallorca, where he will participate in two of the five one-day races of the Mallorca Challenge. The month of February will continue with the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, Het Volk and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne in Belgium, before Chavanel will move onto Paris-Nice, a race that has been dear to him for a while and which he finished in third position last year, also taking a stage win.
"I will try to win it, I really want to," he said. "There is also Milano-Sanremo, which I would like to have as an objective. As it's just after Paris-Nice, I could be good there, too. My aim is to win Paris-Nice, and afterwards score one other Classic. I will race almost all of the other great Classics, including the ones in the Ardennes, which I didn’t do last year."
Chavanel revealed the depth of his talent for the Northern Classics in 2008, when he took the Dwars door Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl in Belgium while still riding for Cofidis. Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere reacted swiftly and signed the 30-year-old to his team to strengthen its dominance in the Northern European Spring races.
With the help of Chavanel, Quick Step was able to repeat its victories of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in 2009. While Stijn Devolder and Tom Boonen took all the honours in the prestigious races, the Frenchman played a team-mate’s role. Still, Chavanel said that he was happy with his choice to move to Quick Step.
"I don't regret anything. On the whole, 2009 went well. I learned how to approach the great Classics, staying at the sides of Tom Boonen who is used to winning this kind of competition. It was important."
Nevertheless, having finished eighth last year in Roubaix, Chavanel feels ready to step up - even if he knows that Boonen and Devolder are the team's absolute leaders.
"As they have already won great Classics, they are being trusted more by the team management, which is normal," he continued. "I showed last year that I was able to do well at the great Classics, so this year, I will try to think more of myself."
Still looking back at 2009, the Frenchman had only one regret as to his results: not having made the podium of the Tour of Flanders, where he was in the lead group in the finale. As his team-mate Devolder attacked to take a solo win, Chavanel stayed behind with Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) and Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and eventually lost a podium placing for the sprint.
"I got caught with 800 metres to go, otherwise I would have made the podium," he said. "Devolder jumped away, so I didn't ride one metre with Quinziato. If I had anticipated this and remained at 15 seconds of Devolder, I could have made the podium. But it's only victory that counts."
This year, Chavanel wants to make it his breakthrough year with respect to the Classics. "One Classic win, that would be it. I don't care which one. There are riders who are able to win a Classic very soon in their career, and others who take more time. I'm 30 years old, and I will try to win one now."