Fabian Cancellara knows he will be closely marked during the Elite men's road race at the world championships but he is determined to target the rainbow jersey, perhaps the only major success still missing from his palmares.
The Swiss rider won a bronze medal in the individual time trial event on Wednesday and told Swiss television during a final pre-race press conference that the medal has taken the pressure off his shoulders. Switzerland has a solid-nine rider team for the road race but is not considered one of the major nations that will be expected to try to control the race.
"A lot of people will be watching me, I know, but I'm not the only rider in the race. We're going to play our cards as we want to play them. We've been training together as a team in the last few days and so we're united and focused on doing well. We're a team and a nation, and we'll be riding for national pride," Cancellara told RSI.ch.
"I believe we've got a good team. We know how strong we are and what our goals and strategy are. Everything else doesn't matter. I've recovered well from Sunday's team time trial and Wednesday's individual time trial. I've already got a medal, which I'm proud of, so I'm relaxed. I've got nothing to lose."
Mind games, big-name favourites and a roller coaster route
Cancellara is one of standout favourites along with 2012 world champion Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, Peter Sagan of Slovakia, and Alejandro Valverde of Spain. Outsiders include Filippo Pozzato and Vincenzo Nibali (Italy), Dan Martin (Ireland), Chris Froome (Great Britain) and Carlos Betancur (Colombia).
"There are four or five riders who are the favourites and its difficult to say who has an edge. Everyone is trying to put pressure on each other but I'm not affected by that," Cancellara said, before playing his own mind games by snubbing Gilbert and Sagan when asked to name his biggest rivals.
"I think the biggest favourites are Filippo Pozzato, Vincenzo Nibali, Jan Bakelants of Belgium and the Spaniards Joaquim Rodriguez, Daniel Moreno and Alejandro Valverde," he said.
Cancellara predicted a hard, fast race with little time to recover during each of the ten laps of the Fiesole circuit.
"The race route is hard and the ten circuits will hurt. They'll be fast, intense, with little room to recover. It'll be like racing on a roller coaster."