By Hedwig Kröner in Varese
2008 Tour de France stage winner Sylvain Chavanel will be heading the French national team at the Worlds in Varese this year. Moreover, being the French national time trial champion, he is doubling up the task, taking pride in representing his home colours as well as he can in the race against the clock on Thursday as well as the road race on Sunday.
Chavanel, who also wore the maillot oro in the Vuelta a España after finishing second in the race's first time trial, left the event after stage 16 to prepare for the Worlds. The 29 year-old said his lead-up could not have been better.
"I quit the Vuelta early in order to be in top form here in Varese," said the Frenchman. "I think that racing the Vuelta was the best possible preparation; those riders that were in front in the Vuelta will also be there in the road race. Personally, my feelings were very good in Spain, so I don't see why they should disappear within a week. The riders who come here from the Tour of Poland, on the other hand, will have a hard time as the weather there was really bad."
The Cofidis rider was surprised to discover the time trial course was not as difficult as he thought. "It's very rolling; not as hilly as I thought," he said after reconnoitring the Varese parcours on Wednesday morning. "There will be an average speed of over 50 km/h, especially if there's no wind. The pace will be very high. The last 10 kilometres will really break your legs because they're on a false flat uphill, which is going to be hard in the end. Overall, the course is too flat to my taste, but I'll still give it everything I have to get the best possible result."
Chavanel will contest the road race as the leader of his French squad. After a very successful 2008 season, which revealed his qualities both as a strong Classics contender and attacking race finisher, totalling six victories this year, the future Quick Step rider has a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders - but this doesn't bother him.
"I have no problem with that," he said, "to the contrary. I think it's a great opportunity. I opted out of the Vuelta to take some time to prepare properly for the Worlds, and I come here feeling pretty fresh. I haven't seen the road race course yet but I'm told it's hard, so it could be good for me. Looking at the profile, it could be better for me than the time trial. I want to do a good road race, too, that's for sure."