Chavanel: I wanted new challenge

Sylvain Chavanel has denied any rift with his Brioches team and says be is looking for new challenge

Sylvain Chavanel has denied any rift with his Brioches team and says be is looking for new challenge

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Sylvain Chavanel has outlined the reasons for his surprise move to Cofidis from Jean-Rene Bernaudeau’s Brioches La Boulangre team where he has made his name. After being with Bernaudeau’s Vende U set-up in 1999, then turning pro with him for Bonjour in 2000, 25-year-old Chavanel has decided to move on and chosen Cofidis because he felt there was a clear gap in their team for him as a leader in the week-long stage races which, for now, are his speciality. Speaking to L’Equipe, Chavanel admitted that contact had been made with Cofidis team manager Francis Van Londersele in the weeks following the Tour de France, although several other teams were interested in signing him. “The foreign teams were offering me a salary well below what I get in France. And what would have my role been? Someone’s flunkey? US Postal made me an offer, but with Lance Armstrong as leader, I couldn’t have expected much. “Phonak contacted me, but financially their offer wasn’t satisfactory. Then Patrick Lefvre got in touch and indicated that Quick Step were interested. But I’ve not heard anything since. I then spoke to the French teams and Francis Van Londersele and Cofidis had the best offer. I did talk to, but the problem was Sandy Casar. We are both well rated young riders and I was afraid that we would end riding against each other. We get on well, so that would have been a worry.” Chavanel has been told be will be Cofidis’ co-leader for events such as Paris-Nice with David Moncouti, but he also hopes to be able to ride in more one-day events and help the team’s leader in the World Cup, Stuart O’Grady. With this in mind, Cofidis’ guaranteed place in next season’s Pro Tour and the World Cup places that come with it was also a key factor in his decision to move on. However, surprisingly for one of his country’s top riders, the Tour de France is not a priority. “It’s a very tough race and to start it at the top of the your form you have to go easy through the first half of the season,” Chavanel explained. “But that doesn’t suit me. I am paid to ride for 12 months and that’s what I will do. At the moment, if I was to work for it, I could finish 15th overall, but that doesn’t interest me. I would prefer to build up my palmars. Cofidis understand that and are letting me draw up my own programme, then they will say yes or no to the races on it.” His other goals are to improve his position on the bike and also his ability in the high mountains, suggesting that there are plans for a more concerted attempt on the Tour in future seasons. Chavanel also denied rumours he was leaving Brioches because he and Bernaudeau had fallen out. “No, not at all,” he said. “I have left on very good terms. I was just afraid of falling into a routine, that’s all. I have spent my first five years as a pro with him and I need a new challenge. In addition, the negotiations to find a successor to Brioches are dragging on and I needed to be assured of being able to ride the Pro Tour events.”