Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel chat ahead of Tour de France

The Quick-Step riders and staff attended a press conference Friday ahead of the start of the 2011 Tour de France. Here are the questions and answers:

Q: What do you think of the first mountain stage at Luz-Ardiden?
Sylvain Chavanel: It was a very good memory for me at Luz-Ardiden. I was ninth or 10th on the stage, and that was when Lance Armstrong congratulated me on my breakaway. It’s a difficult stage, it’s a stage for a pure climber.

Q: Last year, because of your crash, you had to stop your season and came fresher to the Tour, do you come to the Tour this year as fresh?
SC: It’s completely different from last year, because I didn’t have any health problems. I took a similar break during the season, but I trained more this year in the mountains. Maybe I will not be so fresh because I will have more time on the bike, but I worked harder, so maybe I am stronger than last year.

Q: What are your thoughts about your chances for Saturday’s first stage?
Tom Boonen: Tomorrow is a very nice finish line. The last two kilometers are interesting. It’s the first stage of the Tour, so everyone will want to win. It will be hard for the breakaway to stay clear because all the sprinter teams will be working. I am expecting a stage for the sprinters. The guy who will win is someone who can save his legs in the last 6km and who is still fresh in the last two kilometers, then it will be the strongest guy who wins. It will be a very beautiful stage.

Q: Do you think you make a similar race as last year to try to win stages or focus more on the GC?
SC: I hope to do a good Tour de France. I will start with a similar state of mind as last year. I want to enjoy the race and go for stage victories. There are some interesting stages in the first week, but the stages are more for sprinters, so perhaps there are less opportunities, but I will there for the entire Tour.

Q: Last year at the Tour, no one was speaking about you, then you won two stages. Is this year different with new pressure?
SC: I feel very good and this is my 11th Tour. I have more and more experience in the Tour. I will be wearing the French national jersey and people will be looking at me, but that does not mean more pressure for me. I know what my objectives are. I will give the maximum, like I always do.

Q: What are the objectives for you in the sprints?
TB: Let’s wait and see. The first week is the not the typical first week. There are some harder sprint finishes. It’s important to take it day by day. We are also strong for getting into the breaks. We have to focus on the stages like it’s a one-day race. I can aim for certain stages and leave the mountain stages, and be there if it’s a little bit harder. I will certainly try in the flatter ones.

Q: What do you think of the new rules for the green jersey?
TB: I think it’s interesting for the fans to follow the race, but it makes it more difficult for the riders. We will see how it unfolds over the course of the race. It will likely change a lot of things if a team is really chasing that intermediate sprint, so it might make the breakaways more difficult to go away. We have to wait to see what will happen. It’s changed a lot with the new rules. It’s like having two finish lines each day for the sprinters.

Q: The finish is similar to the stage when you were third, do you think it’s possible to beat Philippe Gilbert?
Jerome Pineau: He’s very strong and he won all the spring classics he started. That will have to stop some day, so why not tomorrow? I have more experience than I did then in 2009. There are many riders here who can win, with Tom or Gerard (Ciolek). If Gilbert attacks, we will have to try to go with him. I come with the motivation and with the same goals. There is no time bonus, and there is the team time trial the next day, so it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Q: You have said you’re not aiming for the GC, but you spent three weeks in the Pyrenees training there, why if you’re not going for the GC?
SC: I am not really thinking about the overall classification, because during a three-week tour I always have a bad day in the mountains. Maybe this year will be different because of my mountain training, but we have to wait to see what will happen. I did that because the goal was the French national championships and I won there.

Q: Last year, you won two stages at Tour, this year you were second at Flanders, you won the French championships, can you do more in your career?
SC: I am always very regular. I have made steady progress in my career. I try to have two victories every season. Right now, I have one, with the French championships, and almost two with Flanders. I will keep working toward that goal. I hope to have even more!

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