Tour Guide Flashback – Quickstep Pages (2011)
RIDE Media has produced the official Tour de France Guide (Australian edition) since 2003. The 2012 edition will be on sale mid-June. As part of the team pages we are also offering ‘Flashbacks’ to the 2011 Guide to help provide a look at the progress/changes to the teams between the 98th and 99th Tours de France.
In this flashback we look at the commentary on the Quickstep team from the 2011 Tour preview.
Flashback: 2011 – Quickstep Team Pages
Chavanel: a leader for all seasons…
During the Tour de France of 2008 it was announced that Sylvain Chavanel would defect from the comfort of the French teams that he’d raced with since turning pro (in 2000). He was bound for the Quickstep squad. Jérôme Pineau would join him. The consensus was that it would be good for both parties: the Belgian outfit was a dominant force in the Classics in April but then, by July, motivation seemed to wane. Boonen could be good but his best years have apparently come early in a career that’s littered with high and low points. And the French riders never got much reward for all the energy they spent.
If any confirmation was required that the partnership with Patrick Lefévère was a good move, it happened last July.
Chavanel couldn’t wait for the action to start. As soon as he could he went on the attack. In stage two, he was gone by the 10km mark. Seven others would chase him down, including old mate Mr Pineau. It was the first day with a climb on the course after the Dutch start and, in the Belgian Ardennes, the escape group gained an advantage of seven minutes. It wasn’t easy though: they raced the first hour at 46.8km/h, the second at 46.4km/h… only then did the pace drop. The average speed was lower because they were on the rollercoaster of undulations leading to Spa. The leaders raced, the peloton chased.
One by one, the guys up front conceded. Pineau was one of the last to retreat to the peloton – but only after securing the points of the Côte de Stockeau, and the right for a day in dots. But Chavanel never surrendered. He pushed on while, back in the bunch, a patch of oil combined with a wet descent to create carnage. Over half the peloton hit the ground. Some survivors tried to race, others chastised them for their lack of solidarity. Eventually all but one man pedalled in protest to the finish.
Sylvain escaped so early that he was never even privy to the antics instigated by Fabian Cancellara. He refused to give in. This was his renaissance, a return from a fractured skull that he sustained in similar territory earlier that year – an injury that put forced him into a different pre-Tour program.
By the end, he was a winner again. And a true leader. With an advantage of 2’57” over the next best on GC, he would take the yellow jersey as well. On top of it all, he was also in charge of the points classification. Chavanel’s defection was complete. No longer is he an opportunist who misses out.
He crashed out of the lead, recovered from the injuries and then danced up the road in stage seven… onward to another stage win and another day in the maillot jaune. But that didn’t conjure complacency. Chavanel is a rider who is motivated by success and he started to believe he could take on team-mate ‘Tommeke’ on his terrain the following April. Had it not been for the loyalty the Frenchman had for Boonen, his second in the Tour of Flanders could have been first. He is a rider worthy of leadership status… and capable of a lot more yet.
by Rob Arnold