Sylvain Chavanel was one of the protagonists in Wednesday's stage finale to Pinerolo, but he was finally beaten by Edvald Boasson Hagen from Team Sky. It was no surprise to see the French champion in the main breakaway of the day, as it was the last stage that offered opportunities for tenacious attackers.
Chavanel attacked out of the breakaway in the biginning of the final climb of Pramartino, a narrow and twisting ascent through the woods which culminated at only eight kilometres before the finish. His bid for the stage victory looked good as the Frenchman has improved his climbing and is a well-known descender and rouleur, who could have made it to the line on his own. But Norwegian Boasson Hagen had paid close attention and eventually bridged up to him before dropping him with a decisive jump.
"When you don't win, you just lack the strength," he admitted to Cyclingnews in the finish. "I feel better and better on this Tour, but the Norwegians are very strong, and Boasson Hagen was again really powerful. He checked me out a lot in the escape, because at one point I stopped riding because De Weert was riding in the back for his GC placing. Finally, in the climb, there were some percentages that were just a bit too high for me."
Chavanel was still satisfied, as he is feeling much better than in the first part of the race when a shoulder luxation due to a crash made him suffer and barely hang on.
"I'm still happy, I spent a day in front," he continued. "Of course I would have liked to get that first French stage victory at the Tour, it was the last opportunity for breakaway specialists like me..."
He denied that may have jumped too early on the 6.7km climb. "It was an attack out of observation. Unfortunately, the descent was very dangerous and had too many corners to perhaps come back on Boasson Hagen. He was simply the strongest in the break, there is nothing more to say."
The downhill of the Pramartino had caused some discussion even prior to the stage, and although the stage was held in dry conditions it still proved fatal to race leader Thomas Voeckler, who rode straight off the road several times and lost another 26 seconds on the other overall contenders. Saur Sojasun's Jonathan Hivert, who chased Boasson Hagen on the descent, also got scared off and had to unclip a couple of times.
Chavanel did not want to weigh in on the controversy. "It's our profession that is dangerous, not only the descents. Sure it was a downhill full of tricky corners and the tarmac wasn't great. You never know if it's slippery or not, even if the weather is dry: In Italy, the roads are always a bit greasy."