National champion excited to be at Grand Depart
2011 French champion Sylvain Chavanel arrived at the start of the Tour de France excited to ride his tenth Tour in the distinctive red, white and blue French national champion's jersey.
Since his spectacular win last Sunday, the Quick Step rider has chosen to lay low at his home, not answering his phone and coming to the Grand Départ on his own, in his personal car, savouring a few moments of normal life before the Tour madness begins.
"At the moment, it's all still a bit unsettled in my head, I don't understand what's happening," he told L'Equipe when asked how it felt to be at the start of the Tour de France as national champion.
Chavanel had been targetting the jersey for a long time and to win it this year, after a frustrating spring, felt like a consecration to him.
"I wanted it at all costs. It was this year or never. I had imagined myself with it so many times," he admitted. "Now, I try to visualise the team presentation (on Friday afternoon), it will be special to be on the podium with this jersey. The thought is already gives me goose bumps."
The Frenchman won two stage at the Tour last year and also wore the yellow jersey for two days. Being the French national champion has further boosted his ambitions for this year's race.
"I know that winning races wearing this jersey will mean even more. When I left home in my car, I started getting excited about it... But I won't change anything in my behaviour. I'll remain focused on my objectives."
In 2010, his Tour de France stage victories counted amongst the best moments in his career, and Chavanel is eager to repeat his success. "I remember the stage to Les Rousses when Jéjé (his teammate and friend Jérôme Pineau, out to take points for the KOM jersey) was off the front, there was real complicity between us. It happened without speaking, naturally. It was great, a beautiful adventure," he told Cyclingnews recently.
"Also, wearing the yellow jersey on the cobblestones (in stage three to Arenberg after his first stage victory) was really special, because it resembled a Classic which I hold dear. Even if it wasn't a good day for me (he lost the jersey, requiring two bike changes), it felt great for me personally.
"The good thing about the national champion's jersey is that I keep it for an entire year. I wanted it so much that I will definitely wear it with pride until next June. Now, it's mine and I want to show myself with it as often as possible, starting with the Tour de France."
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