Clément Chevrier had twenty-one days, giving his all in a savage Giro d’Italia. Then, on day 22, it was over. He was back in his silent Chambéry apartment, transplanted from the hubbub of his first Grand Tour.
“I’m used to making efforts every day; suddenly, activity is totally stopped. It’s a bit of a strange sensation,” he says.
One imagines a mountain of letters stacked up by the door, long grass needing a good mow and a dusty house begging to be cleaned. If only he had the energy to do any of that.
“With this return to calmness, I’m in the habit of watching Roland Garros [French Open tennis] on TV, but I ended up sleeping in front of it. So there’s a bit of fatigue, general tiredness. I need to rest,” Chevrier says.
“For a month, you have all the fans around you and you’re very well cared for by the staff, then normal life suddenly returns. [IAM team-mate] Sylvain Chavanel was saying to me: ‘Tomorrow morning at 7am, I’m taking the kids to school.’”
Chevrier has earned the chance to put his feet up. If the Giro d’Italia had a prize for best first-year pro, it would have gone to the French climber, who rode consistently to finish 69th overall in Milan.
Journey of discovery
Was his first Grand Tour how he’d imagined? “I found it difficult to picture exactly how difficult it would be. I was worried about how I’d recover over the course of the race,” Chevrier says. “It was a discovery. I took it day by day, I was always afraid of a jour sans, a day without power.
“But in fact, everyone is tired so that helps: the level stays around the same.”
The 264-kilometre eighth stage between Grosseto and Fiuggi was the longest race of his life – further than he’d even been in training. Chevrier finished with the peloton.
Then, in the long time-trial between Treviso and Valdobbiadene a week later, he had a Ferrari following him as his team car, a surprise on the behalf of the team equipment sponsor, Cuore, whose owner has a big collection.
“It didn’t change my performance but the fans on the side of the roads were really excited to see it. I could hear them shouting: 'Hey, a Ferrari!'”
Over the course of the race, Chevrier learned plenty from two experienced room-mates who have seen plenty of Grand Tours: road captain Stef Clement, who abandoned on stage 15, and Sylvain Chavanel.
“Stef told me at the start of the race: ‘We’ve got 24 days till the end of the Giro. If you have one hour more sleep every evening, that adds up to a whole day by the finish.’”
The Giro isn’t just endured in bed. Chevrier also did regular cryotherapy on his legs in the evening and took advantage of the occasional visit of IAM Cycling’s acupuncturist, Mike Iavarone. “For recovery and sleeping well, it’s really very good,” he says.
His only disappointment was not making it into a long breakaway during the race.
“It’s a bit of a shame for me. They were hard-fought, often taking about an hour to go, being formed on strength.”
The man from Amiens finished 69th overall, three and a half hours down on Alberto Contador, comfortably the best of the nine competing neo-pros. “Oh, I didn’t look, I knew I was among the youngest,” he says, when informed. “That’s not too bad.”
This time last year, Chevrier was a Continental-level racer in America with the Bissell Development Team, run by Axel Merckx. It was a proactive step taken by the youngster, who had wanted a superior level of races after three years with the Chambéry Cyclisme Foundation, a development outfit for Ag2r-La Mondiale.
“At the 2013 World Championships, I contacted Merckx… he took me on the team, but it’s true that it was a bit strange for him, as the French don’t often go abroad as youngsters.”
Top 20 overall finishes at the Tours of Utah and California piqued the interest of Trek Factory Racing, who took him on as a stagiaire. A subsequent offer to turn pro with IAM Cycling was soon forthcoming.
“That experience in the US helped me to integrate into a foreign team and culture, to learn to speak English,” he says. “It’s helped me a lot in my life, not just my cycling career.”
Looking to the future, the 22-year-old has his eyes on mountainous stage races and one-day Classics like Liège and Lombardy. “So far, in all the races that I’ve done – Catalunya, the Tour of the Basque Country, Flèche Wallonne and the Giro – the level has been very high.
“There’s still a good difference between me and the best. For now, I find it hard to say that I can maybe be at the front of these races. But in the future, my personal aim is to get results there.”
In the meantime, it’s going to be a case of rest and relaxation after a month in the Grand Tour bubble. Three days completely off the bike are pencilled in before tentative coffee rides resume.
“That’s how I’ll come back to cycling stronger: enjoy some free time, have some barbecues in the sun and catch up with some friends.”