After five years in the service of Tom Boonen in the spring classics, Sylvain Chavanel is ready to take over the reins of leadership at new squad IAM Cycling, but the Frenchman said that he does not feel any additional pressure at the prospect.
“Pressure is something that you put on yourself,” Chavanel told La Côte at IAM Cycling’s presentation in Geneva on Monday. “In any case, it’s not the same as when I was on Tom Boonen’s team, for example, when we ‘had’ to win the classics.”
While Chavanel made a substantial contribution to QuickStep’s classics haul over the years, he recouped relatively little personal reward for his efforts, with two victories at the Three Days of De Panne and a narrow second place finish at the 2011 Tour of Flanders his best spring results during his time at the team.
At 34 years of age, however, Chavanel believes that time is still on his side as he bids to land victory in a major classic. Indeed, it was only after his Dwars door Vlaanderen victory at Cofidis in 2008 that Chavanel began to focus on the cobbled classics in earnest.
“I’m approaching 2014 in top form, I reached my sporting maturity later than other riders,” he said. “The main thing is that I’m still enjoying it. I have two years with IAM ahead of me, and my priority remains this first part of the year.
“I’m a man for the start of the season, and March is the period that I prefer, even if it’s not the only one I like. The team wants to participate in the Tour de France too, and we have good riders for the stage races, like Mathias Frank.”
Chavanel raised some eyebrows with his decision to sign for a team outside of the UCI WorldTour, but he believes that IAM Cycling, now in its second year of existence, provides a suitable environment for his talents. Along with Heinrich Haussler, Chavanel will lead the Swiss team’s tilt at the cobbled classics.
“The team is fresh and there’s nobody at the top of the bill – we’re all the same,” he said. “I’m not going into the unknown because this team has benefited from a year of experience, and I’ve seen how it works.”
Chavanel also explained the thinking behind his decision to ride a number of cyclo-cross races throughout the winter months rather than take a complete break from racing. “I didn’t want to rest my body for six weeks as it would have been too hard to start again, so I took some mini-breaks instead,” he said.