He never stops trying and Sylvain Chavanel has come perilously close to winning stages in the past but his aggression has never been matched with luck or strength when it matters most. Not until the 19th stage of the 2008 Tour de France at least. Finally, he timed it all to perfection. He attacked at the 78km mark and was joined by Jeremy Roy three kilometers later. Then the pair muscled their way to an advantage of over five minutes before the sprint teams tried to spoil the party. This time, the opportunists would get the last laugh: Chavanel rode a clever sprint after leading under the ‚Äėflamme rouge‚Äô and opting to mark his rival from the front position. He hit out 250 meters before the line and claimed his maiden stage victory in the Tour de France. The peloton finished one minute 13 seconds behind; Carlos Sastre was 38th and will now start to consider what he has to do in the time trial of stage 20.
The Progress Report
The 165.5km 19th stage of the 2008 Tour de France, from Roanne to Montlucon, began at 1.29pm. There were 149 riders at the sign on. Damiano Cunego (LAM), who crashed at the 28km mark of stage 18 and finished 20‚Äô12‚ÄĚ behind the winner, succumbed to the injuries sustained and did not start today. The itinerary included just two climbs: the category-three La Croix-du-Sud (at 17.5km) and the category-four cote de la Croix-Rouge (42km) and two intermediate sprints, the first in Chantelle (at 102.5km), the second in Commentry (22km from the finish). The conditions on the eve of the crucial time trial were warm with a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius with a light cloud cover and minimal chance of rain.
Four Lead For 53km
Again there was an attack at the moment of the official start but it would not succeed. The first escape to gain an advantage on the bunch came from Schumacher (GST), Martinez (EUS), Ballan (LAM) and Fedrigo (BTL) at the 16km mark. They claimed the climbing points and held an advantage of 35‚ÄĚ on the peloton at the top. Quickstep then Liquigas then Caisse d‚ÄôEpargne all led the peloton for a while. By the second climb the advantage was 1‚Äô05‚ÄĚ. The average speed for the first hour was 45.8km/h. The escapees were caught at the 69km mark.
Chavanel And Roy Break Free
At the 78km mark, Chavanel (COF) raced into the lead and a counter-attack came close to him at 81km, that‚Äôs when Roy (FDJ) jumped across and the two Frenchmen were allowed to gain a significant advantage by the peloton which, at 85km was 1‚Äô00‚ÄĚ behind; at 84km this had grown to 4‚Äô00‚ÄĚ. The average speed for the second hour was 49.7km/h. The maximum gain was 5‚Äô05‚ÄĚ at the 125 mark. That‚Äôs when all four riders from Barloworld moved ahead of the CSC team that had been leading the peloton and started to up the tempo.
At the 135km mark, Milram, Quickstep and Liquigas also joined in the chase. At 137km, the advantage of Chavanel and Roy was 4‚Äô10‚ÄĚ. At the intermediate sprint in Commentry, Cheula (BAR) led the peloton to the line 3‚Äô25‚ÄĚ behind Roy and Chavanel.
At the 158km mark, Chavanel overtook Lilian Jegou as the rider to have spent more kilometers on the attack than any other rider in the 2008 Tour.
Chavanel Leads All The Way To The Line
The peloton was led by sprint teams that really picked up the pace of the chase in the final 35km but couldn‚Äôt demolish the deficit it had to the two escapees. With 25km to go, the bunch was 3‚Äô40‚ÄĚ behind; 20km to go, 3‚Äô20‚ÄĚ; 15km to go, 2‚Äô55‚ÄĚ‚Ä¶ and it became clear that Chavanel and Roy would contest the stage. Chavanel took pole position after passing under the ‚Äėflamme rouge‚Äô and led all the way to the 250m to go mark when he opened up the sprint and held off the challenge from Roy by about a bike length.
Carlos Sastre finished in the middle of the peloton that was 1‚Äô13‚ÄĚ behind at the finish. The Spaniard will be the final rider to start the time trial for stage 20 tomorrow. He will wear the yellow jersey for a third day in a row.
There are few riders as consistently aggressive as Sylvain Chavanel. Over the past few years he has tried his luck in umpteen escapes but never has he been able celebrate a victory in a stage‚Ä¶ until now!
‚ÄúThis confirms that my early season, which was very good, is continuing. This is my seventh victory this year. Still, I would not have believed that it was possible this morning. Yesterday evening I found myself with real back pain and I had to consult the osteopath to receive some treatment last night. So today, I‚Äôm the happiest man at the Tour.
‚ÄúDuring the first hour of racing, the pace was really fast. I was always positioned well ‚Äď in the first 20 places in the pelootn ‚Äď but I did not manage to make it in the first escape. I was really frustrated, so I insisted, and when they were caught, I told myself that I could launch a counter-attack. That‚Äôs exactly what I did.
‚ÄúAt the end, I had a little hint of doubt, and indeed I have not even dared to attack three kilometers before the finish line. But I did not panic and I rode the sprint exactly the way I wanted to. I did not want a sprint with hesitation as we saw yesterday between Barredo and Burghardt. I preferred to lead the sprint out and it worked.‚ÄĚ
There‚Äôs one certainty about a time trial at the end of the Tour de France: it‚Äôs going to hurt! Carlos Sastre is aware of that and he is preparing himself for a mighty challenge at the end of a long and arduous three week contest.
‚ÄúIn the time trial the most important thing is to know the course so I‚Äôll go and see it tomorrow morning. It will be very important for me to have the time reference of Fabian [Cancellara] who is the best in the world at the time trial; then I‚Äôll have the advantage to know about Menchov and Evans. I will count on my strength and my confidence.
‚ÄúI feel relaxed. The team has helped me immensely. I have waited for this day for the whole of my life. The only difference with other time trials is that I now have the yellow jersey; otherwise, my legs will hurt, I‚Äôll suffer from start to finish.
‚ÄúYesterday Cadel touched my shoulder and congratulated me but I don‚Äôt talk a lot with him. Especially when the race is ‚Äėa bloc‚Äô as it has been these past two days.‚ÄĚ
Some believe that the transitional stages offer a reprieve of sorts for the riders vying for prize jerseys. It may be a chance for opportunists to fight it out for the stage win but Andy Schleck explains that racing at the end of a three week contest is tough on the mind as well as the body.
‚ÄúToday was the hardest stage for me. I don‚Äôt know why. Maybe I was just really bad but everybody attacked and there was no going slow today. From the start to the end it was like full gas. It was fast! I just remember moving up and moving up and thinking, how far back can I possibly be? As soon as I got near the front, I would be past and have to move up again. I was so happy when we got to the finish line and I could finally stop and stand still for a moment.
‚ÄúThe thing is, you really concentrate on the challenge of the Alps or the Pyrenees and once that‚Äôs behind you, the natural instinct is to focus on what needs to be done in the time trial. You don‚Äôt know how you should approach it; they say it‚Äôs the last day that matters and in a stage like this your mind is already considering the time trial and it‚Äôs taxing. It was really hard today mentally more than physically.‚ÄĚ
As expected, there has been no change to the top order of the general classification after the 19th stage. The overall leader Carlos Sastre finished 38th in the stage, 1’13" behind Sylvain Chavanel. The Spaniard will be the last rider to start the 20th stage - a 53km time trial.
The peloton finished 1’13" behind the two escapees who joined forces at the 81km mark. The top 10 in the 19th stage is:
1. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) COF
2. Jeremy Roy (FRA) FDJ at same time
3. Gerald Ciolek (GER) COL at 1’13"
4. Erik Zabel (GER) MRM at 1’13"
5. Heinrich Haussler (GER) GST at 1’13"
6. Leonardo Duque (COL) COF at 1’13"
7. Filippo Pozzato (ITA) LIQ at 1’13"
8. Thor Hushovd (NOR) C.A at 1’13"
9. Robert Forster (GER) GST at 1’13"
10. Julian Dean (NZL) GAR at 1’13"
The average speed for Chavanel and Roy is 45.728km/h. Ciolek led the peloton to the line 1’13" behind the French pair.
Sylvain Chavanel has tried and tried and tried and tried... (etc) again and again and finally he’s won a stage of the Tour de France. He is the second Cofidis rider to win a stage of the 2008 race.
Sylvain Chavanel has finally won a stage of the Tour de France. He opened up his sprint 200m from the finish and held off Roy.