Most of the bigger names in the Tour of Britain have their eyes on the end of the season, but one who has his sights set on mid-October in a slightly different way is Sylvain Chavanel, the evergreen French rider who is to retire at the Chrono des Nations-Les Herbiers on October 14 after 19 seasons as a professional.
"As I've often said, I want to remain professional to the very end," said Chavanel, who is now into his 40th year, having turned 39 in June. "My contract ends on December 31 so I'm going to act as if I was still riding next season. There are races to do and I want to be competitive."
Chavanel is keen to turn up at the final few races of his career in acceptable form, hence his decision to race on British roads this September, partly because the Chrono des Nations is only the official ending to his career rather than the end of his time pinning on a race number.
"I don't want to turn up short of condition and not be good. I will stop racing [at the Chrono des Nations], but then I will race the cyclo-cross circuit in my area to support the race organisers, because amateur cycling is struggling more and more, particularly to attract young riders," Chavanel said.
"I came out of the Tour well, then I rode the French track championships to spice up the programme and do something different – I got three medals against young guys of 20-25. I can give myself the luxury of mixing it up like that now, because it's not like when you are young and everything goes into the road which is where you earn your daily bread.
"The Tour of Britain is at a good level, then I ride GP Impanis, a Coupe de France on the track at Bordeaux, the Tour de Vendée, and then the Chrono."
But there is no temptation for him to delve deeper into bigger races such as Il Lombardia and Paris-Tours. Those days are over, he said.
"When you race at the highest level there is a lot of supplementary stress, all around you, the fight for position because getting position is hyper important if you want to get a result," Chavanel said. "The organisers today like to make their races harder and more demanding, and with time passing you know the risks on a bike and I don't want to find myself with my face in the tarmac. During your career you see some really big crashes and I'd rather lose 20 places than keep position at all costs because if you get a big one you never know."
Hence, Chavanel has absolutely no desire to do one more year, even though he can clearly turn a pedal with the youngsters. "At a certain moment you need to say stop. I know that for some of my supporters it's going to seem bizarre not having me around anymore. I didn't want to go on when it turned into a huge effort, I wanted to stop when I was still competitive," he said.
Chavanel's results include spells in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France and Vuelta, a total of nine French national titles in road, time trial and track, and 16 finishes in the Tour out of 18 starts, but he is clearly now ready to leave it behind. "Cycling is a pleasure, but it becomes your work. I need to step back and breathe because I've spent more time on the road with my suitcase than I have at home with my kids. It's a time when I should be at home to be involved with what they are doing."
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