Sylvain Chavanel using Paris-Nice as launching pad for spring classics

The Omega Pharma rider has his eyes on Paris-Roubaix, a race at which he's had little luck in the past

NICE, France (VN) — Everyone was surprised to see Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) dart to victory in Saturday’s reduced bunch sprint into Nice. World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) certainly was, and so too was Chavanel.

“It’s a surprise to win the sprint, but I saw from the beginning of the week I was getting stronger,” Chavanel said. “I am not a real sprinter, but [Samuel] Dumoulin and Gilbert gave me a great leadout.”

Chavanel is using Paris-Nice as a launching pad into the spring classics, where he hopes to continue his consistency across the cobblestones.

“We will have a very strong team for the classics. We always work together in the major races and that’s the plan again for this year,” Chavanel said. “I have grown stronger here at Paris-Nice and I hope to be in peak form in time for Flanders and Roubaix.”

The 33-year-old Frenchman will be Quick Step’s second card to play behind Tom Boonen, who delivered the double last year at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Chavanel has developed into a formidable classics rider over the past decade, winning such races as Dwars door Vlaanderen, Brabantse Pijl and the Three Days of De Panne.

In 2011, he was second at Tour of Flanders to Nick Nuyens (now Garmin-Sharp) as part of the winning three-man breakaway.

Chavanel hopes to continue that run in this year’s classics.

“I would like to win at least one of the spring races, of course. Flanders and Roubaix are the two biggest ones,” he said. “You have to have a bit of luck to win, and be strong, of course. I am feeling confident.”

With Boonen playing catch-up on his form, the team could be leaning on Chavanel  even more this spring.

One race at which he hopes to shine is Paris-Roubaix, where he says he’s always stymied by bad luck.

“Since I’ve started training this winter, I’ve been thinking about Roubaix,” Chavanel said. “I seem to be missing some luck in that race. The past two years I’ve had some punctures that cost me a lot.”