Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) won his third Strade Bianche and showed his rivals that he will again be the rider to beat in the Spring classics. But after 16 years as professional he insisted that no amount of success, or money, would convince him to race on for another season.
Cancellara will be 35 on March 18, the day before this year’s Milan-San Remo, and it will be his last ride in the Italian Classic before he goes on to ride his last full spring campaign. No amount of success will change his mind about retiring at the end of the season.
“People keep telling me that I’m not old and that I should carry on. It happened in Mallorca where I won, in Dubai and in Algarve where I won the time trial. Today I won too but it’s not a matter of winning or getting a huge contract for another two years and carrying on,” he explained in his winner’s press conference, an hour after beating Zdenek Stybar and Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).
“I could easily ride for more years but that’s not what I want. I’ve got 16 years in the pocket and as I’ve always said, this is the last year. Whatever comes there won’t be another decision, no Hour Record, no World Championships. I could win a lot more but winning is not everything in life. I always say that cycling is part of life but it’s not all my life.”
“My decision to retire came out as I was racing. It came out like a gut feeling. I enjoy riding my bike, I know my race plan and know it’s the last time, so I can enjoy it even more, I can enjoy my freedom.”
“I have ambitions and plans for the future but for sure I won’t put a number on my jersey to compete in the bunch against the other guys.”
Raced it well
Earlier Cancellara had raced just as aggressively as he has done throughout his career. He ensured he was in he attack of the day launched by Peter Sagan, and then timed his final effort to perfection, so he could catch Brambilla over the top of the final climb into Siena and then keep Stybar behind on the run-in to the finish in Piazza il Campo in the heart of the city.
“I knew that it was my last Strade Bianche but that I knew I had s chance to win,” Cancellara explained. “I knew it was going to be a harder race with a shorter course but I had the power to close the gap on Peter when he made the progression. Then I waited until the finish while keeping Brambilla under control. When you race to win, it’s a game. I knew I had to take risks but the risks I’d taken before showed me that I’d already made the right risks. If I think back, I realise I raced it well.”
Cancellara lifted his bike above his head to celebrate victory and then proudly walked to the podium area as if he had won the Palio – the horse race that is so much a part of Siena’s history.
“It all came naturally, I didn’t plan it,” he explained. There were so many people there that I couldn’t move. Then I saw all the team staff in red jackets so I decided to celebrate and then to leave the bike with them and walk to podium. I saw all the people in the square and when you win like that you’re really happy. I was as proud as a little boy.”
The Cancellara sector of dirt road
A third victory at Strade Bianche gave Cancellara a place in history and race organiser RCS Sport confirmed that the sixth sector of the race – the 11.5km sector at Monte Sante Marie, will now be named the Fabian Cancellara sector.
“I’m really happy about that,” he said. “I knew this morning that there was a possibility and that I could make history and its great to do it.”
“My lucky number is seven, so maybe that would be better but it’s special because I know I won’t ride Strade Bianche again but I know that sector six will bear my name. I have a bridge in my home town, now I have a gravel sector too.”
Cancellara revealed that he also has a bet with his Swiss Fan Club and collects a 1.5 litre bottle of the famous and expensive Sassicaia Tuscan wine for every race he wins. His three victories so far in 2016 mean he is up to 4.5 litres but he has no plans to drink them just yet. First he wants to focus on his final spring campaign.
“I really want to enjoy my last season. I’ve won almost everything during my career and so whatever comes on top is just a big bonus,” he said.
“I think with this third win, the real season has begun. I’ve won already in Mallorca and Algarve but I’m not yet where I want to be. We’ve got something like 29 days until the big ones. But everything that comes this season is extra.”
“I race with my freedom I push my teammates because they know what to expect when I’m riding good. I want to stay healthy and I have nothing to lose. That’s how I’m going to race, with my passion for racing.”