Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) was again on the offensive on stage one of the Three Days of De Panne, but his bid to bridge across to the winning breakaway ended in frustration. The Frenchman said that he failed to find collaborators in the chasing group on the stage won by André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
It was the second time in three days that Chavanel had been on the attack in Belgium, as he had contributed generously to the four-man break that animated the finale of Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem. Although neither raid was to end in victory, Chavanel declared himself pleased with his condition ahead of Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
“The form is coming back,” he said. “I was very ill but now the condition is coming, so I’m hopeful for the coming days.”
While Tom Boonen will lead Quick Step at the weekend, the nature of Chavanel’s recent aggression suggests that he may well be sent on the offensive inside the final 50km. The Frenchman refused to be drawn on his team’s tactics, however. “I’ll just be trying to do a good race,” he smiled, as he headed for the Quick Step bus.
Peeters puzzled by Rosseler’s tactics
Quick Step directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters echoed his rider’s feelings on the finale, and said that he could not understand why Sebastien Rosseler (RadioShack) had not joined in the Frenchman’s effort to get across to the leaders.
Rosseler’s teammate Dmitriy Muravyev was in the leading group of four, but Peeters maintained that he had more to gain by chasing the break, as he could have laid the foundations of overall victory.
“I don’t understand Rosseler, as he’s very strong in the time trial,” Peeters told Cyclingnews. “Ok, there was Muravyev [in the break] but he didn’t win the race.
“If they’d come back up to the break, they could have come in with 20-25 seconds and Rosseler could well have won the Three Days of the De Panne.”
Instead, Chavanel was forced to do the lion’s share of the work in pursuit of the four up ahead. “Because of that Sylvain was alone, and to close the gap to four riders alone is difficult,” Peeters said. “But he did a good race, it was good training for next Sunday.”
Putting pressure on Cancellara
With the Tour of Flanders fast approaching, Quick Step received a significant boost to their morale with Tom Boonen’s victory in Gent-Wevelgem. Peeters admitted that it had been hugely important for the team to clock up its first WorldTour points of the season, not least because they determine the positioning of team cars behind the peloton next Sunday.
“It’s important for the car, and of course winning Gent-Wevelgem, a WorldTour race, is very important,” Peeters explained. “It was very important for Tom, for the team and for the classification.”
Peeters is also hopeful that Gent-Wevelgem marked a turning point in Quick Step’s year, after the team’s subdued beginning to the season.
“We haven’t had a lot of luck so far this year,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of guys who’ve been sick and had crashes, but now hopefully that’s behind us and we can have something positive in the next races.”
After Fabian Cancellara’s exhibition at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on Saturday, Quick Step find themselves with the unfamiliar tag of underdogs at the upcoming Tour of Flanders, and Peeters was happy to pile the pressure on the Swiss rider’s shoulders.
“He can only lose the race. If he wins it’s normal, and if he loses it’s very bad,” Peeters smiled. “He can only lose the race, we can win it.”
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.