Sylvain Chavanel’s hopes of overall victory at Paris-Nice evaporated on stage 4 to Belleville, when the IAM Cycling man suffered a mechanical problem shortly before the day’s decisive climb, the Côte de Mont Brouilly.
Chavanel chased back on for 10 kilometres and was within touching distance of the peloton at the foot of the climb, but was unable to make the final junction. As stage winner Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) and Geraint Thomas (Sky) broke clear up front, Chavanel paid for his chase efforts, and ultimately lost almost a minute on the stage.
“Up front, they were going full gas and I knew from watching the video last night that positioning would be crucial at Mont Brouilly,” Chavanel told L’Équipe afterwards. “I wanted to get back on straight away but I was flat at the bottom of the climb, I was in the red. I wanted to sit on but it wasn’t enough and I lost a minute. I’m disappointed but not demoralised.”
Chavanel’s IAM Cycling manager Serge Beucherie dismissed the idea that Chavanel had been unable to follow the pace on the climb due to a lack of condition. “It’s not a physical problem,” he said. “It’s normal to blow up after such a violent effort.”
In the general classification, Chavanel now lies in 44th place, 1:04 down on new race leader Thomas. He acknowledged that his hopes of a place on the podium in Nice have all but disappeared, but sounded an optimistic note about his chances of picking up a stage win later in the week.
“I’m not dejected, there are still nice things to do,” Chavanel said. “Before when I’ve not been up there on general classification, I’ve managed to recover at Paris-Nice with stage victories.”
Given his distance from Thomas’ yellow jersey, Chavanel was hopeful, too, that he might have a little more freedom to go on the attack between now and Nice. “The stages at the end of the week suit me well. The terrain is definitely suited to attacks in the coming days and now I might be allowed to get away.”