Tour de France: Chavanel earns Zwift Rider of the Day

Frenchman earns most combative rider award after day-long breakaway

Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Énergie) might not have won the second stage of the Tour de France, but he's the second Zwift Rider of the Day for a ride that characterised his 18-year career thus far. Finding himself all alone out front 145km from the line, the Frenchman just kept going with his eyes on a near-impossible prize - a solo breakaway victory on a pan-flat sprinter's stage.

Eventually his quest came to end just 13km from the line as the sprinters' teams revved up the pace. That's 132km all alone - save for the DS in his ear and the crowds cheering on the man racing for their local team, of course.

After the stage, Chavanel said that Vendée native Fabien Grellier was supposed to be the team's man in the break, but said he was "very happy to spend the day in front" nonetheless.

"My two breakaway companions sat up, and I'm not someone who gives up," he said. "It's true that I rode well but it was practically impossible with the last 10km - a wide road with unfavourable wind.

"I have a little reward with the combativity prize today on JR's [team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau] birthday," Chavanel added. "In front of a Vendée crowd it was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed myself."

Chavanel has already said that this - a record-breaking 18th participation - at the Tour de France will be his last. By starting Sunday's opening stage he surpassed Stuart O'Grady and Jens Voigt to take the record outright, and if he lasts through stage 18 he will be the man with the most Tour stages completed - overtaking Joop Zoetemelk's 365.

It hasn't been a career defined merely by turning up and clocking in the miles though. Victories in the Classics - Brabantse Pijl and Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2008 - have been highlights, as have his Tour showings, with three stages, two combativity awards and two days in yellow on his palmarès.

His versatility has been a major strength, winning multiple national championships in the road race and time trial, showing strongly every Classics season, and also returning to the track for back-to-back national championships in the individual pursuit in recent years.

It may be the end of his Tour career, but his involvement in racing may not be at an end, with Chavanel saying that, "it's not the time to announce the end of my career. We'll see at the end of the Tour." Maybe not a final flourish for our Zwift Rider of the Day then.

Daniel Ostanek: Chavanel is a rider I have admired for a long time. For 18 years the Frenchman has never failed to exhibit the same fighting spirit typical of my favourite riders. He's won races all over the place, and his Quick Step years will live long in the memory. At the Belgium team he helped the team win two Flanders-Roubaix doubles, almost winning Flanders for himself in 2011.

Then there was 2010, when he took yellow on stage 2 after a solo break in the Ardennes, and then retook it five days later in the Jura mountains. Another stage win would be a magical end for Chavanel's Tour de France career, though at 39 years of age and with Grand Tour breakaway wins becoming harder and harder to come by, it'll be a tough ask. If the rest of his career is anything to go by though, we'll see him out there trying again before the Tour is over.

On stage 1 you voted for EF-Drapac's Lawson Craddock as your Zwift Rider of the Day. The American climber crashed in the feedzone, some 95km from the finish. He was soon back on his bike though, fighting through the pain to hang on to the back end of the peloton until finally dropping 20km out. He would make the finish and fight on another day though, despite the cuts to his eyebrow and a fractured left scapula.

You can vote for the stage 2 Zwift Ride of the Day below. We will announce the reader's poll winner after Monday's stage 3.

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