Sylvain Chavanel intends to ride the Tour de France for an 18th time next July to better the record of 17 starts held by Jens Voigt and Stuart O'Grady. The veteran Frenchman is known for his aggressive riding and will again ride for Direct Energie in 2018 before retiring or competing for one last season in 2019.
Chavanel has started every edition of the Tour de France since 2001, winning three stages and wearing the leader's yellow jersey for two days in 2010. He managed to finish every race except in 2007 and 2012.
“If I ride the 2018 Tour de France, it’ll be 18th and my last. Riding 17 is exceptional. If I do an 18th Tour I’d make history,” Chavanel told his local newspaper Centre Presse while promoting his annual randonnée ride on his home roads near Beziers in the southwest of France.
"I could continue racing even into 2019 but I'm not interested in riding a 20th or 21st Tour. I know how hard the Tour de France is and the sacrifices that are needed to ride it."
Chavanel will turn 39 a week before the 2018 Tour de France starts in the Vendee region that is home to the Direct Energie team. He is famous for his aggressive racing and long-range attacks, combining his time trial skills with panache to win 39 times since 2000. His palmares includes three French time trial titles, four overall victories at the Tour Du Poitou Charentes Et De La Vienne, and two at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque and the Driedaagse De Panne.
Chavanel has ridden for Bonjour, Brioches The Boulanger, Cofidis, Quickstep, IAM Cycling and Direct Energie. His five seasons at Quickstep were arguably his most successful and earned him his reputation as an aggressive Classics and breakaway rider. He finished second in the 2011 Tour of Flanders and fourth at the 2013 Milan-San Remo. He was an impressive ninth at this year's Tour of Flanders.
Chavanel remains one of Direct Energie's biggest names for 2018 but knows he will have to deserve his place in the eight-rider Tour de France team.
"The Tour de France is a big goal but it's too soon to say that I'll definitely have a place in the team in July. The teams will include just eight riders under the new rules and so if I'm not on form I wouldn't want to take someone else's place," Chavanel said, also reflecting on his long career.
"I’m more prepared and more experienced now than on my debut, that's for sure. Things will end sooner or later but I can’t take anything for granted and for now I’m focused on next season. I could retire in 2018 or carry on. If I'm successful then why not carry on? I'll have a look at things after Paris-Nice and then at the Tour de France. I could race on into 2019 but next year will be my last-ever Tour de France."