Over a decade on from when they last worked together, Sylvain Chavanel and Team Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau may well be heading for a reunion that would bring the French rider’s career full-circle.
Chavanel began his professional career under the tutelage of Bernaudeau when Europcar was first formed in 2000 as Bonjour, later becoming Brioches La Boulangère. He spent four formative seasons there before joining Cofidis and going his own way but now, at 36 years old and without a contract offer for next year with his current team IAM Cycling, he is keen for their paths to converge once again.
Bernaudeau is similarly keen to bring about a reunion but the move is contingent on him being able to find success in his frantic search to secure a sponsorship deal to keep the team alive after Europcar announced that it would pull out at the end of this year.
“I had been in discussion with Jean-René but not necessarily in terms of collaboration. Later, when I knew that IAM weren’t going to renew my contract, I picked up on an idea over a telephone call with Jean-René. I said to him that I was ready to take on a new challenge with him, with Voekcler, if he found a sponsor," Chavanel told La Nouvelle République.
“I’m at a stage in my life, at 36 years old, where I don’t want to prostitute myself to be able to ride a bike. I’m prepared to take a big hit on my salary, 50 per cent if needs be. I want to be respected for my career as a whole and what I have brought to French cycling. My reputation is intact and I have nothing to prove. It’s not me being pretentious and it’s not about the money. The proof: I’m prepared to drop down to amateur level if I don’t find the right match. ‘JR’ was very enthused by my proposition and I was convinced that we could still do some great things together.”
Speaking later with Cyclism'Actu, Chavanel added: “I contacted Jean-René to tell him that I would really like to end my career by his side, on the condition, of course, that he finds a sponsor. I have not forgotten that my professional career started by his side. Things in life have meant that I changed teams after that but we’ve always stayed on good terms.”
Chavanel will now head to the Vuelta a España for one of his final races in IAM colours and he is keen to use it to consign what was a miserable July to the past. He was told a few days into the Tour de France that his contract would not be renewed for 2016, which affected him mentally, and his performances at the race were hampered by the effects of bronchitis.
"This will be the first time that I’ll have ridden the three Grand Tours – Italy, France and Spain – in the same season. It will also be the last,” he told La Nouvelle République.
“I want to enjoy it, rediscover the sensations that were missing at the Tour de France. Physically I have recovered well with a week off followed by a spell at Font-Romeu. I want to leave behind the frustration I felt at the Tour.”