Sylvain Chavanel is 33 years old today – bon anniversaire et bonne chance pour le Tour!
Sylvain is often quoted as being the French housewives’ favourite and, given that he rides for a Belgian squad, I wouldn’t mind betting he’s popular there too! He’s on course for a fine Tour having won the French time trial championships for a record-equalling fourth time last weekend and will roll out of the Tour start gate in Liege, on his birthday, proudly wearing the tricolore jersey.
Eddy Seigneur was the only other French rider in history to win four national time trial championships – 1996, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Sylvain won his three other titles in 2005, 2006, and 2008 and said:
I’m also happy that I reached the record of Seigneur. But for me, the most important thing is that next week I will start at the Tour prologue with this brand new jersey. It will give me a great motivation, and I can’t wait to show it off at the Tour.
Here’s how he did it:
Sylvain rode his first Tour de France in 2001 aged just 22, finishing 65th, and he’s ridden it every year since. He finally recorded his first stage win on 25th July 2008, when he outsprinted that other well-known attacking French rider, Jeremy Roy. That and other performances saw him voted most combative rider of the Tour.
The following year Sylvain, despite having Spanish antecedents and being French-born, enjoyed success racing in Belgium, so he followed his heart and joined Patrick Lefevre’s Quick Step team. Having raced with French squads since turning professional, he explained:
I had other options as well. Professionally, it’s an experience that can only do me good. I had the chance to sign for three years with AG2R La Mondiale but I had the feeling that I wasn’t going to develop enough. I have always raced in France and, in my heart, some experience abroad has excited me for some time. I therefore decided to take the step and Patrick Lefevere’s advances completely persuaded me.
During the 2010 Tour de France, Sylvain took the maillot jaune after attacking 10km into stage two which was marred by a series of crashes involving a number of GC contenders. The following day he punctured on the cobbles and surrendered the jersey to Fabian Cancellara. However, on stage seven Sylvain bridged the gap to an early breakaway, then rode away to take the stage victory and reclaim the yellow jersey. He was once again voted the Tour’s most aggressive rider.
French housewives will be hoping for more dashing, derring-do from Sylvain at this year’s Tour. Indeed there are a number of stages which look right up his street if he’s let off the leash from minding teammate and GC contender Levi Leipheimer.