Frenchman consecrated by Tour de France victory after years of criticism
By Hedwig Kröner in Montluçon
Cyclingnews diarist Sylvain Chavanel burst into tears after crossing the finish line in Montlucon at the finish of stage 19. Seeking refuge in the arms of his team assistant as the media descended upon him, the Frenchman celebrated a very special moment in his career. More than 'just' winning a stage at the Tour de France, Chavanel once and for all stuffed the mouths of his numerous critics, that claimed his ever-attacking way of racing was forever doomed to be unfruitful.
But the rider who scored the record for the most kilometres spent in breakaways at this Tour de France - 415, to be exact - quickly got a grip on himself again and was overjoyed to receive his very first Tour stage win podium honours.
"This victory proves that if you don't give up, you can one day achieve something," he commented about his habits of breaking away, that did pay off several times for him already this year. "Today was my day. I missed out several times at this Tour, and if I hadn't won today, I would have been frustrated, one more time. But I would have tried again!"
Chavanel's feelings were very personal. "It's a big relief, and so emotional as you could see at the finish. I thought about my best friend who passed away one year ago, last year at the start of the Vuelta. If he would have still been here, he'd would have gone berserk with joy. I also thought of my family and my children. So many things came out as the pressure disappeared..."
The 29 year-old took off on his sixth attack 78 kilometres into today's stage, and was finally rewarded. Despite some back problems he's been having since the beginning of the season - which he will have to follow up on after the race - Chavanel was motivated as always to try his luck. "I didn't believe in it very much," he said. "Last night, I couldn't move anymore because my back was killing me. This morning, I got up and I wasn't sure at all about what I could do today.