By Hedwig Kröner
During the Tour de France, it was announced that Frenchmen Jérôme Pineau and Sylvain Chavanel would be changing teams next year and join the Belgian squad of Quick Step, directed by Patrick Lefevere. Both riders were hired with a view to the Belgian Spring Classics; especially Chavanel, who had a breakthrough this early season with two important victories in Belgium: Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Brabantse Pijl.
"Chavanel is a very strong rider and I like to compare him to Stijn Devolder," Lefevere told Cyclingnews on the penultimate day of the Grande Boucle. "Devolder is a good rider, but couldn't win very often, so he came to our team. He took the pressure off Tom Boonen when he was in a breakaway. So I think the same thing will happen with Chavanel."
The Quick Step boss didn't hesitate to set Chavanel's goals up high for next year. "With the experience he has now coming out of Cofidis, he might be able to win Flanders or Roubaix," the Belgian added.
These predictions should have flattered Chavanel, whose stage victory in the Tour de France topped off his best season as a pro rider yet. The 29 year-old will be leaving Cofidis after team manager Eric Boyer also supported him during the harder times of his career. "I remain on good terms with Cofidis," Chavanel said. "The victory in the Tour was the best was I could thank them for the four years I spent with them. Now, a new adventure starts for me. If I leave for Belgium, it's because I want to broaden my horizon and add to my palmarès."
Negotiating with Bernhard Kohl
Lefevere also has his eyes on Tour de France King of the Mountains and podium finisher Bernhard Kohl. The Austrian, who speaks fluent Dutch, was spotted talking to the Quick Step manager at the Tour. When asked about it, Lefevere did not deny his interest. "Everybody knows he's at the end of his contract, because Gerolsteiner hasn't found a new partner yet," the Belgian said. "So his lawyers sent me an e-mail to present him. That is why we're in talks. But talking doesn't cost anything, right? I'm always interested in good riders."