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Plaudits but no podium for Chavanel at Milan-San Remo

Barry Ryan
March 18, 2013, 12:07,
March 18, 2013, 12:21
First Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) on the attack

Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) on the attack

  • Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) on the attack
  • Sylvain Chavenel and Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
  • Stage 6 winner Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) speaks to the press.

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Frenchman plays familiar role on the Riviera

Another race, another best supporting actor nomination, but still no Palme d’Or for Sylvain Chavanel on the Riviera on Sunday, as the Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider fell just short after animating a dramatic edition of Milan-San Remo. On a day that deviated radically from the expected script, Chavanel delivered all of his lines on cue but was once again ushered into the familiar role of nearly man in the finale.

Chavanel had ghosted off the front in typical style between the Cipressa and the Poggio and was still in front at the summit in the company of Ian Stannard (Sky), but they were caught on the treacherous descent. After cramping up on the sodden approach the line, Chavanel could only manage fourth in the sprint as Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) claimed a surprise win.

Away from bright lights and metaphorical red carpet of the podium, Chavanel delivered his post-race thoughts Off Broadway, as it were: outside his team bus parked on a quiet side street. “Let’s make it quick, eh? I’ve got a plane home to catch in a bit,” Chavanel joked as he emerged to talk to the small group of reporters gathered in the gloom outside.

The obvious question to start, then – disappointed? “I did a nice race, but I had cramps in the sprint,” Chavanel said. “They started just after the top of the Poggio and when you’re with Sagan and Ciolek, who are much faster in the sprint, it’s hard. After 200km in the cold, I had cramps. Voilà, I was still fourth but it’s disappointing to have come so close in a monument.”

When the race re-started after the lengthy interruption to avoid the snow on the Passo del Turchino, the Omega Pharma-QuickStep was shorn of three of its number as Tom Boonen, Stijn Vandenbergh and Niki Terpstra opted not to continue, and it fell to Chavanel and Mark Cavendish to close out the production.

Chavanel’s stock role in the classics is the attack from distance in support of his leading man – normally Boonen, but on this occasion Cavendish – and he duly obliged when he found himself at the front after the descent of the Cipressa, and then manoeuvred his way out of the leading group.

“I played my role,” Chavanel said. “I had to follow the moves on the Cipressa. I didn’t want to take too many risks on the way down, but in any case, I found myself off the front with all the favourites at the bottom and that’s when I took the initiative because they were all watching one another. I think it was the right choice.”

Chavanel and Stannard’s forcing on the Poggio saw their breakaway companion Eduard Vorganov drop away and their lead stretched out to almost half a minute at one point, but when Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan began to stir behind, their advantage was slashed. “When I heard we had 25 seconds I started to think we might go all the way but unfortunately Sagan did a great descent of the Poggio and we were caught.”

Before the race, Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s efforts had been focused on Boonen and Cavendish, but the extreme weather conditions meant that Chavanel emerged as a serious contender for the win. If he was nervous during the long stoppage aboard the team bus ahead of the re-start of Arenzano, it didn’t show. “I slept – dormito,” he smiled. “I don’t know if I was the strongest rider out there but I think the mental side of things is what makes the difference in a race in difficult conditions like today. Everybody knows that these conditions don’t bother me.”

Plaudits are all well and good, however, but Chavanel is understandably keen to inscribe a monument victory on his palmares and, now almost 34 years of age, he is aware that the window of opportunity will not last indefinitely. “I can’t reproach myself too much because I’ve been a player in these races for the last four years and I’m always trying to progress,” Chavanel said. “Compared to some other riders who peaked early, I’ve reached maturity as a rider quite late and I only started to discover these races quite late. So I’m still hopeful and I’ll try to do the best I can.”

Starting from this week, when Chavanel heads north to begin his cobbled classics campaign. “I need to recover because even though the race was shortened, it was very tough, like riding through ice and that can have a big muscular effect,” he said. “Still, I should be at Waregem on Wednesday. But Harelbeke is more important for me.”

TShame More than 1 year ago
Another great ride. It looked like he put in a bit too much effort, too early. He kept working hard when the foursome was mere seconds behind. It was a lost cause to hold off Sagan and Cancellera. I think he should have tried to recover a bit more when they made the junction. When he plays his cards, and strength, correctly; then he'll get his big win this season.
yetanothergreenworld More than 1 year ago
He really should have won Flanders a couple of years ago but got boxed in during the sprint. Fortunately the classics are more favorable to older riders than stage races, since experience and intuition count for so much.
Julian Allen More than 1 year ago
Strange, I thought Stannard made the break and Chavanel bridged to him.
Terrence Martineau More than 1 year ago
I think he should have went all in with Stannard... I think he was holding back jut a little because he though the group would thought the group might come back to them and that's why Stannard started attacking him, because he was dogging it a little bit... he should have just committed and went all in though.. if they would have had another 15-20 seconds they probably would have made it... easy to say though from my nice, warm, comfy sofa though :-)
amadeusj More than 1 year ago
i agree, had the same feeling. chava only started working with full committment after stannards attack. in the flat before the poggio they were all eying each other and a committed, cooperating break could have gained some 20 secs more in that section. but probably he was working for cav at the beginning - he also chased down 2 attacks on the cipressa (the one by a small group and the 2nd one by gilbert) before - and only later decided (or got the ok by the DS) to give it a try.
HailPantani More than 1 year ago
A shame - Chavanel is a super rider. He and Stannard deserved more for their efforts. However, because Chav was up front, Cav could not do anything while the move was playing out. His form is looking quite good for one of the flatter classics..
CobbleStoner More than 1 year ago
if that were true, than Cav would have won easily, he knew that Chav set it up for him (or a team leader) to follow Spartacus and Sagan up to him, just like Ciolek did. Cav knew what he should do but didn't have the legs to do it in those condition. congrats to Ciolek for being able to hang and taking advantage of Sagan's overconfidence