Fabian Cancellara announced that he will line up at the Giro d'Italia next May in what will be his final season in the professional peloton. The Swiss rider confirmed his participation in the corsa rosa during a press conference in Treviso on Wednesday, where Segafredo was revealed as co-title sponsor of the Trek Factory Racing team for the next three years.
"I'll be at the Giro d'Italia. I've never worn pink and so it's a goal for my last season," Cancellara told reporters. "I already spoke about it with [Trek-Segafredo team manager] Luca [Guercilena] about a month ago."
Cancellara has raced the Giro just twice during his career, in 2007 and 2009, and withdrew in the second week on each occasion. He holds the record for the most days spent in the yellow jersey of the Tour de France without ever winning the race overall (29), but the pink jersey is one of the very few missing from his collection. The 9.8-kilometre time trial on the opening day of the 2016 edition in Apeldoorn ought to provide him with an early opportunity to lead the Giro.
"The yellow jersey of the Tour is the most prestigious but perhaps the maglia rosa is the one with the most passion, the most emotion," said Cancellara. "And obviously, I come from an Italian background so it's something that would mean a lot to me. A lot of years in the past, I either didn't have the chance to go to the Giro, or else I just went to ride and see."
When Cancellara announced his retirement plans last month, he suggested that he was unlikely to ride in the Olympic Games in Rio, though now at least, his programme has only been sketched out as far as May.
"The programme up to the Classics is fairly certain, starting with Mallorca and the Volta ao Algarve," he said. "I still have to confirm if I'll do the opening weekend in Belgium, but then I'll certainly ride Strade Bianche, Tirreno and Milan-San Remo as normal before the cobbled Classics, and then the Giro is on my programme after that."
In the second part of the season, the Tour de France, which includes a stage to Cancellara's home town of Bern, the Rio Olympics and the World Championships road race in Doha all stand out, but the Trek-Segafredo leader is reluctant to look beyond his spring targets at this juncture.
"There are lots of different things this season – we have new sponsors, there's the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders, the Tour de France is coming to Bern, there's Rio… There are lots of things I could target, but for now I'm just thinking about the Classics and afterwards, I'll think about what other specific things to do," Cancellara said. "People are asking me when my final race will be but for now I'm just enjoying my training and enjoying what I'm doing.
"It's a year where I'm going to go hard but I have to take it one thing at a time, and right now I'm looking to Mallorca and those races. I just want to enjoy every day rather than look ahead to the Tour or something else. The first objective is the Classics."
Not a farewell tour
Whatever the race programme, Cancellara was quick to downplay the notion that his 2016 campaign would amount to something of a farewell tour. After a spate of crashes and illness in 2015 ruined his Classics campaign, ended his Tour prematurely and ruled him out of the Worlds, the 34-year-old is keen to make amends this time out.
"This won't be a farewell year, that's not what I want," Cancellara said. "I want to race like other years, on top form. Like this year past, where I was on top form but unfortunately I kept crashing. I had some bad luck but I’m optimistic that next year will be a good one, a year of performances. Ok I'm retiring, but the important thing is that I do a season like I know I can do."
Cancellara was coy on his plans post-retirement – "I have some ideas but I won't think about them now" – but expressed satisfaction that Segafredo and the Mapei Centre's involvement with the Trek team would continue beyond the end of his career. "Even if I'm stopping at the end of next year, cycling will go on. The wheels keep on turning and mine will too, just in a different way," he said.
Asked if he had any particular dreams left to fulfil before he calls time on his career, Cancellara took a pragmatic view. "I have lot of dreams, but I have more objectives than dreams. In life you need to dream, but I'm working for my objectives."