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"Chava told me he missed a little bit of freshness compared to Gilbert and Sagan who did not race Roubaix. He felt it was a little bit difficult for him, but he was still in good shape and got 4th. He wanted to get on the podium for hi...

Photo: Sirotti








11.04.2013 @ 14:26 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Sylvain Chavanel was a key protagonist in yesterday's Brabantse Pijl and he was only beaten by the strong trio of Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil). He had hoped to get on the podium but a lack of freshness was costly in what will be his last race of the spring season.


After a disappointing Paris-Roubaix in which a mechanical forced him out of contention, Sylvain Chavanel hoped to take one last top result before a well-deserved rest in yesterday's hilly Brabantse Pijl. The Frenchman did just that as he finished 4th after 3 laps on the hard finishing circuit in Overijse.


When Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Philippe Gilbert and Peter Sagan attacked on the climb of Hertstraat with 18km remaining, Chavanel was not far behind and assisted by Simon Gescke (Argos-Shimano) he managed to regain contact with the trio. They closed the gap to an early break in which Chavanel's teammate Nikolas Maes was already present.


Knowing that he lacked the explosiveness to follow the likes of Sagan and Gilbert on the final Schaavei climb, Chavanel tried to surprise his rivals with an attack on the last descent inside the final 4km of the race. An attentive Sagan closed down the move and unsurprisingly, Chavanel was unable to follow the accelerations from Sagan on the day's final ascent.


Instead, he had to settle for 4th as he beat Geschke in a sprint but sports director Rik Van Slycke thought that it could have been even better, had the Frenchman not arrived in Belgium with tired legs after a long spring campaign.


"If you see all the riders that were in the break, it means it was quite hard," he explained "Only the best could catch up to the front. Also, I have to be honest. Chava told me he missed a little bit of freshness compared to Gilbert and Sagan who did not race Roubaix. He felt it was a little bit difficult for him, but he was still in good shape and got 4th. He wanted to get on the podium for his last race of the spring season, but OK, he did his best."


Maes on the attack

In the final, he was assisted by Maes who was another of the team's key riders for the cobbled classics who chose to use his good spring condition one last time before his rest. Originally part of a 6-man group, the Belgian and Kenny Dehaes (Lotto-Belisol) were the only ones to survive all day in the front group as riders joined from behind.


Van Slycke was happy to see Maes enter the early break to take off the pressure.


"We told the guys today that they should be in any break, at least one rider," he said. "Because this circuit is so hard, it is difficult to get back to the front group if you are not already there. You'd spend too much energy just to get back and make the final. Once you are in the front it is more easy to pass all the climbs. It's not so nervous, you don't have to fight for position. So we knew we had to do something like that and Maes did a perfect job today."


"His condition is good, but we knew that as he was doing the Classics. This was a good opportunity for him to do his own race today. I told him to go in the break and see how good he was, and he did that for the team."


New faces for the Ardennes classics

While Chavanel and Maes rest before they build up for the last part of the season, another part of the team turns its attention to the Ardennes classics. Key rider Dries Devenyns will be dearly missed after his crash in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and the team will instead hope to see riders like Peter Velits, Jerome Pineau, Gianni Meersman and Michal Kwiatkowski in the mix.


"Now we look forward to the next races," Van Slycke said. "We are bringing some fresh guys for Amstel. We will see, as the intention of every rider has been very good. We're always in the final with one, two or three riders. We're controlling the races. If we continue with this spirit I think we can do well in the upcoming Classics."


The team has never had the same kind of results in the Ardennes as they have had in the cobbled classics. Last year, Devenyns' 14th place in the Amstel Gold Race was the squad's best performance.



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