Fabian Cancellara is convinced he can conquer the ten hilly laps of the Florence world championships course just as easily as he handles the climbs in the Tour of Flanders, and so finally win the rainbow jersey, perhaps the only accolade missing from his rich palmares.
The Swiss rider is also targeting a world championships treble: the team time trial title with RadioShack-Leopard on Sunday, the individual time trial on Wednesday and then the Elite men's road race on Sunday. If he wins, he would take the rainbow jersey to the new Trek team after signing a three-year contract with the US-registered squad that will take over from Radioshack for 2014.
Despite already winning the time trial title four times, he's is playing down his chances against Bradley Wiggins, Tony Martin and Taylor Phinney but is convinced he can win the road race title.
Cancellara dominated the spring Classics this season, winning the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and he seems equally as strong now. He used the Vuelta a España to polish his form for the world championships and impressed on the climbs as he worked to protect and set up teammate and eventual winner Chris Horner. He also beat Tony Martin to win the time trial stage.
"Lets see what happens in the race"
The Florence road race circuit, that will be covered ten times after a 100km flat section from Lucca, includes a 4km climb up to Fiesole and then a short, steep, climb in Via Salviati to the finish. It has been described as the toughest world championships course of the last ten years. It could be more suited to the climbers than Classics riders but Cancellara dismisses suggestions that it is too tough for him.
"The Beijing (Olympic) course was hard but I was up there (finishing second behind Samuel Sanchez)." Cancellara argued in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Everyone is talking about Via Salviati: it's hard but it's only a 90-second all-out effort. Let's see what happens in the race..."
Cancellara reveals he will marking defending world champion Philippe Gilbert very closely but does not consider fellow Classics riders Peter Sagan or Filippo Pozzato as a threat.
"I think I'll be up against Gilbert. He's only got one card to play and he's got to play it well," he said.
"Peter's raced in America and so I don’t think he'll have the distance in his legs. I'm convinced the Vuelta is the best preparation for the worlds. I did 16 stages full gas, full on."
"The Spanish riders could be good, if they ride together… I'm sure Nibali will have a great Worlds because he showed he's in super shape at the Vuelta. But it'll be very difficult for him to win. Pozzato? I don’t know what he can do. If I was him, I wouldn't even turn up."
The time trials
Cancellara has been in Tuscany since Monday, training in the warm weather that is also forecast for the whole of the world championship week.
His first objective is Sunday's team time trial with Radioshack-Leopard.
"It's a big goal and it's important to me," he said. "It's important for the team too and so I'll be giving it 100%. We use one of the things I learnt while at Mapei: 'Vivere Insieme' - Live together. It could be a special day for some of my teammates who doesn't get much space because they work for the team. Omega Pharma and BMC are the favourites but Sky could be a surprise too. We showed at the Vuelta that we're strong too."
Cancellara has won the individual time trial world title four times but seems to be playing down his chances this year on the flat 57km course. Yet it is perfect for the huge amount of power he can produce.
"I'm going to ride and we'll see how hard I go. My favourites are Wiggins, Martin and Phinney. I don’t know in what order even if I think the Englishman can win it," he said.
Life is too short
Now 32, with his future and perhaps his final contract of his career secured with Trek until 2016, Cancellara has a more relaxed, almost Zen-like way of looking at his career and life.
"I've learnt you've got to take advantage and enjoy of every moment in life because there's no tomorrow," he said, reflecting on the highs and lows of his career.
"Life's too short to think negatively. You've got to be happy for where you live and what have in life. I'm a campione, I'm charismatic and some people indicate me as an example but I try to think like I work in a factory. I can buy almost anything I want but money can't buy the really important things in life: health, happiness… I'm able to be happy with very little."