By Brecht Decaluwé in Val d'Isère
Fabian Cancellara had a tremendous second half of the 2007 season so far and during the first week of the Tour de France - where he has been wearing the yellow jersey until stage 7 - he stated that it was impossible to reflect on the past few months. For Cyclingnews he made an exception and next to the swimming pool of Hotel Le Blizzard in Val d'Isère we talked with the Swiss 26 year-old about his development, the team, his Spring Classics season and his future.
Cancellara described how he has developed in the past few years as a rider. "I've become more professional now. I learned so many things, I'm using a completely different way of training, a different way of living. Of course it's not always possible to live as a professional but I certainly raised it a level up," Cancellara said.
The CSC team is the critical factor in that change, the man leading the Danish team is Bjarne Riis. "He is the man behind the improvement I made but it's more than that. I feel very good at CSC, it's the whole atmosphere in the team, it's about the values they cherish. It's the team for one, and one for the team. For instance when Fränk Schleck was working so hard for me during the first Tour de France week when I was in yellow, I thought it was too much as he had to be fresh for the mountains. But he just did it 100% for the team and I'm going to give it back," Cancellara promised.
"Champions are riding for you, there are no egoists in the team. Other teams have egoists but they don't bring the team any further," the Swiss powerhouse talked about the team cohesion. Early on in 2007 the wins didn't roll in for Cancellara and it was only in the Tour de Suisse that he captured his first victory flowers. "I didn't have to worry when I didn't win for so long early on in the season as there was no panic in the team. In [the Tour de] Suisse I knew that I had worked well, then I took part in the Giro d'Italia because my body needed it, I needed races. After the stages in the Alps I knew I would be ready for the Tour de France", Cancellara looked back on his troubled early 2007 season where he was unable to clinch wins.
The Swiss national time trial champions pointed out that it's not always the best rider that wins a race. "I guess when one can win a race without being in the best form, it means that you're a smart rider. When you're in top form you're trying to force it too much," Cancellara reflected. Another product of cycling's new generation is Belgian Tom Boonen, he also mentioned the factor luck after finally winning his first Tour de France stage since 2005 on Friday 13.
"For me it's easier than for Boonen because the sprint is a lottery," the former winner of Paris-Roubaix said about another former winner of the cobbled classic. In 2007 Cancellara was unable to turn his favourite's role into a close finish as he suffered a lot with the heat. "In Paris-Roubaix my body wasn't ready for the heat, I had a few percentages too much fat. I wasn't in the perfect condition that people thought I was. I also found it hard to deal with the media attention; the two weeks before Paris-Roubaix were unbelievable, probably even more intense than in the Tour de France," Cancellara looked back on the press pressure during the Spring Classics.
A week before his 19th place in Paris-Roubaix the Swiss pulled off a strong performance in the Tour of Flanders where he was destroying the field in a fierce attack with Gert Steegmans on his wheel, but in the end it turned out that his attack started too far out and Cancellara eventually finished on a rather disappointing 53th place. "Now I know that it wasn't clever what I did in Flanders, nevertheless I will keep going for the Spring Classics," Cancellara looked forward to return to the cobbles and hills in Flanders and Northern France.