By Daniel Benson
Fabien Cancellara's chances of winning the Tour of Flanders ended in cruel fashion on Sunday, when the rider's chain snapped at the foot of the Koppenburg, forcing the Saxo Bank rider to abandon. With no team support or assistance allowed on the legendary climb, the Swiss star was forced to walk towards the summit, before throwing in the towel, turning back and riding to collect his chain and quit the race.
Coming into the race Cancellara's form was patchy at best, following an injury sustained earlier in the month, but the Olympic time trial champion explained that he had regained enough confidence prior to the race to be competitive. "I've had bad luck again, but I was coming here feeling much better. Breaking my chain was nothing more than ridiculous, especially the timing of it. I've not made a mistake, and neither has my team. Of course I'm very sad right now, but this just seems to be part of an endless run of bad luck at races that I’ve had for a long time," Cancellara told Cyclingnews from the Saxo Bank team bus.
Before his mechanical malfunction, Cancellara was prominent at the front of the peloton. "I was feeling okay until that point. I was either doing my work for the team or riding smartly in the bunch in order to stay strong for as long as possible. I know I wasn't at my best but I was still willing to fight until I had nothing left in the tank. I was robbed of that opportunity, and that's what's eating me up right now," he said.
Cancellara's attention turns next to Gent - Wevelgem, an event he will ride on Wednesday before tackling Paris-Roubaix, a race he has won once before. "It's important that I remain positive and get some rest tonight. I'm feeling down right now but it won't last long. Tomorrow's another day, and the races are coming thick and fast."
There were mixed fortunes for Cancellara's teammates. Matti Brechel finished a credible sixth, while Frank Hoj suffered a suspected broken collarbone and will miss Paris Roubaix.