Who doesn’t love Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel?
The man was born with “attack” as his middle name. Put him in race and it’s guaranteed aggression. He’s a cage fighter on a race bike. Like Jens Voigt, he knows that nothing ventured nothing gained at finish line.
Year after year he’s been a predictable force at the front of the race. His insanely high cheekbones and wide grin make him look like the Joker in Batman. He simply loves to race his bike on any road, in all conditions. Besides, he has a fire breathing dragon tattoo above his ankle. Action thriller: Garcon with Dragon Tattoo!
Today in the final act of the Three Days of De Panne — that would be 3b — he jumped from 12th place to win the overall by four seconds over Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil-DCM. Chava torched the final 14.7 chrono with a time of 17:49. C’est formidable, mon pote!
Just the other day the story was that top Flanders rivals Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen were skipping De Panne to rest up for the cobbled classic on Sunday. Not Chavanel — and unlike Peter Sagan — also a dark horse possibility for the win in the Ronde — he wasn’t riding De Panne for “training.”
The current assumption is that De Panne is too hard and too close to the nasty test at Flanders to fully recover. But Chava doesn’t necessarily buy that line of reasoning. “In the past there were more riders who prepared by doing De Panne, but you see that they’re staying at home because De Panne is really a bit of stress,” said Chavanel. “You use up quite a bit of energy that way but then last year, I was fourth in De Panne and then second at Flanders after that, so why not ride? It’s hard to know what is the best preparation. You just try to do your best.”
When he’s on form, his best is podium strength. Chavanel beat Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who was Da Man in De Panne going into the final stage, by a whopping 1:19. That pushed Kristoff out of the top ten and the Global Russian Cycling Shindig is not happy.
We’ll see what kind of legs Chavanel will bring to the Ronde van Vlaanderen to support top favorite Tom Boonen. “On Sunday, Tom [Boonen] will be the captain,” he said. “For sure he is number one, he has already won two times; but I will have an important role with the team as well. It’s important to know that it’s not just Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team in the race on Sunday, there are a lot of strong teams able to perform very well. It won’t be easy, but we will try to fight.”
There’s nothing like having the support of a strong team — something Fabian Cancellara must be wondering about. While Omega Pharma Quickstep is strong and brings a one-two punch, Cancellara can count on the support of, well, Fabian Cancellara. He’s going to need the motor on Sunday.
It’s also going to be an epic match-up of bike sponsors as Trek and Specialized go man to man and frame to frame. So far the Red S has a commanding lead in the win column but Fabian Cancellara can fix that in Flanders.
Twisted SPoke hands out a box of chapeaux to Monsieur Chava. Bravo Frenchie.