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Cancellara ready for Milan-San Remo showdown

Stephen Farrand
March 15, 2013, 05:01,
March 15, 2013, 20:00
First Edition Cycling News, Friday, March 15, 2013
Milan-San Remo
2012 winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard)

2012 winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard)

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Spartacus hopes to slay Sagan

Fabian Cancellara may not be at his very best this spring but the powerful Swiss rider believes he is again ready to be in the thick of the action at Milan-San Remo and is prepared to do everything he can to stop Peter Sagan stealing his thunder as the king of the spring classics.

Cancellara is now 30 and admitted he is starting to feel his age after a decade of intense racing. He seems to feeling the heat from a new generation of talented young riders that are breathing down his neck.

"Right now I'm not bad. I've done my job, I've done my homework, I've done what I need to do," Cancellara said while talking to the media present in Italy as the days count down to Sunday's Milan-San Remo.

"Tirreno-Adriatico has been an important week of racing. I'm on the way but maybe I'm missing a result. But hey, winning isn't everything."

Sorting out Sagan

Cancellara has failed to land a win so far this season to assure himself and his team of his form and fire a warning salvo to his rivals. Instead he has to watch Peter Sagan dominate many of the races he has ridden.

Sagan is multi-talented and able to win from an attack or in a sprint, while Cancellara has always had to count on his brute force and speed to win big. He won Milan-San Remo with a solo attack inside the final two kilometres in 2008 but was beaten by Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) last year despite forming the decisive three-rider attack with the Australian and Vincenzo Nibali.

Cancellara knows he could find Sagan on his wheel going over the top of the Poggio this year and would have little chance of victory against the super-fast Slovakian. It is evident that Cancellara doesn't like Sagan, that there is far more friction than admiration between the two after last year's Tour de France: Cancellara clearly still hasn't forgiven Sagan for sitting on in the final kilometre of stage one to Seraing and then jumping away and making one of his entertaining victory celebrations.

He makes it clear that he will not repeat the same mistake, promising to 'break it down', to attack and split any group, if he is with Sagan in the finale of Milan-San Remo.

"I respect him as a rider, he's a young talent and it's good we've got some good talent riders. But as I said after the Tour de France, he's still got a few things to learn," Cancellara said with a carefully worded put down.

"I'll ride my race and he and the Cannondale team will ride their race. I have my ideas how I'm going to race Milan-San Remo but I'm going to keep them to myself. It all depends on how the race goes. He wasn't such a gentleman with me, so I'd probably break it down, I wouldn't pull if we got away. It all depends who is in the group but I don't think I'll take riders to the finish like I did last year. No."

Cancellara writes off the chances of pure sprinters such as Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Merida) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) but warns of several dangerous experienced rivals.

It's not only about Sagan, there are riders from Paris-Nice, people like Chavanel and Gilbert, Pozzato was riding well at Tirreno-Adriatico, as was Hushovd.

Finding a middle way

Cancellara is now perhaps past his very best. 2012 was a difficult season and left a few scars. He was strong at Milan-San Remo, finishing second but then crashed out of the Tour of Flanders and missed Paris-Roubaix. He had another successful Tour de France, with victory in the prologue and a several days in the yellow jersey but he blew his chances of winning gold in the Olympics time trial after crashing in the road race, while chasing the decisive breakaway.

"Crashing on a stupid corner last year and losing a great chance of a gold medal was pretty big for me," he revealed.

"That's why I took my time off. I took two months off. It's a lot but I don't feel bad because I needed it; it did me good. I'm not a philosopher but now I see things differently. We don't know what will happen tomorrow and that's why I work hard and why for condition is good.

"Sometimes it's hard to stay dedicated but I think I've found a middle way that works. I'm 100% dedicated to classics but in other parts of the season, I'll also switch races to spend time with my kids, otherwise I'd already have hung up my bike. Life can finish fast, that's why I need to enjoy as well as focus on my racing.

"I'm 30. It's a lot. There are some very young riders in the peloton now and some very old ones like my teammate Chris Horner. He'll be 42 this year but I won't be racing at his age. When I'm 38 or something, I'll be sitting on my couch or helping a team, rather than putting on a number. I'm not counting my years now but you need to find your motivation to get to 100%. I've been at high level since 2006 and so you need to take a break and step back, even if it's a month or two months. We're not footballers. Cycling is a damn hard sport, you have to give it 100%, otherwise you get 'run over' by other guys and you'll achieve nothing."

Andy Schleck is only human

Cancellara's final thought during his meeting with media is for troubled teammate Andy Schleck. Cancellara is focused on the classics but is aware of Schleck's problems and is understanding.

"I saw him this week first time after a long time. I think he's on the way back but he's got to take it step by step," Cancellara suggested. "He didn't have an easy year last year, with the crash, being awarded the Tour de France and then with what happened with his brother. Andy's experienced but he's still young too.

"He needs his time to come back. I still believe in him, as does the team. He apologised after being dropped on the descent during the team time trial. I said: 'No worries, man. Think where you were a few months ago, a few weeks ago, and keep working.'

"Of course when you see Froome, Contador and Rodriguez performing well he feels sad that he can't be up there but I told him not to stress about it. I think he can up there in the Ardennes Classics because I know Andy's engine.

"When you need help, you have to ask for help and that's what he's done. That's why I think he will be back. I always tell young riders to be careful during their careers. You need time to understand what you achieved as a rider. You become famous but sometimes you just want to be left alone. Success changes your life. At the end of the day, we're only human. But that's sometimes difficult for people to understand."


FabiquesAnquetillara More than 1 year ago
I like Cancellara. He is classy.
Frenchie More than 1 year ago
Kind words about Andy.
dts31999 More than 1 year ago
He makes more sense in that interview than he does in his tweets!
bikerbruce More than 1 year ago
Hahahha...give the guy a break, English is not his first language. I'm just glad to hear his thoughts (even if some don't make sense) because he has given us some world class displays of power
dts31999 More than 1 year ago
I know... only joking mate. He speaks far more languages than I do... and he's a way better cyclist too :) Looking forward to watching it on Sunday.
la.margna More than 1 year ago
It's not Spartacus' problem if you don't understand Fabianese! ;-)
adrianeveritt More than 1 year ago
Cancellara's a great rider, but when did he get the title "king of the spring classics"? Okay, three years ago he won Flanders and Roubaix together, but that's three years ago - and he's not won any since. Besides that pair, he won San Remo in 2008 and Roubaix for the first time in 2006. Four classics over seven years: four great wins, but still only four. From 2004 to 2012, Tom Boonen has won ten - including three in a row last year. Surely he's the guy to dethrone? Sagan, of course, has yet to win any. I mean, good luck to him, but he's nothing more than a pretender till now.
Azerjaboomafar More than 1 year ago
Well to be fair to Fabian. In 2010 he won Flanders and Roubaix. In 2011 came in 2nd at San Remo and Roubaix and 3rd in flanders. 2012 he destroyed Strade Bianchi, rode away in San Remo but pulled gerrans with him and then crashed out at flanders. Yes, Boonen had more wins last year (how many if Fabian was around? I don't know) but over the last three years...2010-2013 Fabians record is equally impressive. After last year though yes, Tom should be reigning king. As for Sagan I don't think he is pretending he is anything. The media is overhyping it. Go Hushovd.
peter16x More than 1 year ago
And who are you?
Azerjaboomafar More than 1 year ago
Huh? some dude who has access to wikipedia
blemcooper More than 1 year ago
It's worth a little extra when your wins are so dominating as some of Cancellara's have been that people accuse you of using an electric motor on your bike. That Flanders and Roubaix were remarkable sights to see at the moment of his riding off the front, whether from a close-up moto shot in Flanders or a wide angle helicopter shot in Roubaix.
Bryins More than 1 year ago
When a rider starts talking about how old they are it is time to call it a day. I bet Horner does not feel old. Cancellara hates Sagan because Sagan is such a rare talent. I used to pull for Fabian but no more with this kind of baloney. Fabian took the big money at Leopard instead to going to a team built around him and winning his races. He gets what he deserves.
bikerbruce More than 1 year ago
Of course this is only for discussion because neither of us know, but...I doubt Fabian hates Sagan: maybe jealous and certainly frustrated. It's the dilemma, but also the beauty of bicycle racing: not always does the strongest win. If so, Sagan would need a calendar to catch up to Cancellara. But as it is, Sagan can climb fast enough and has such an abundant burst of power, that FC will need to come up with a trick none of us have seen in order to get rid of Sagan. And you may be right about the team; FC would need a team who's talents and tactics could play to his strengths. But he doesn't; it seems he's on his own.
Azerjaboomafar More than 1 year ago
To be fair Leopard picked up DeVolder? to help him over the winter. If he had gone to IAM there is a chance he would not get to ride the races he wanted.
bikerbruce More than 1 year ago
I love this guy. He is a time trailer who can road race and makes for quite a spectacle. Although he is world elite, he's in the same predicament as any amateur: if a sprinter follows your wheel without taking pulls, you will lose 100 of 100. And how to get rid of Sagan? If Fabian can get a gap while the others aren't aware, then he's gone. But at this point, who and when will be unaware or unprepared to jump on his wheel? And who will try to match his pulls when they feel his power and realize helping him with pace is certain defeat?
unc_sammy More than 1 year ago
Spartacus should have stayed with Riis and teamed up with Contador rather than with the Schlecks.
peter16x More than 1 year ago
FC is just crying as a small child..... Sagan is already and will get much better than him.
Mark Schwitau More than 1 year ago
Personally, I don't have to hate one favorite in order to like another. This will be a great race whomever wins it. Most of these guys seem to be friendly rivals with no real maliciousness between them. Fabian has most often been kind and polite in defeat .... and kind in Victory. He may have been "heavily marked" the last two years, but he still managed some great results and a long string in the yellow jersey. These guys all suffer ups and downs. Even Sagan doesn't win every time. He had quite a few "bridesmaid" moments last year as well.
sisyphus969 More than 1 year ago
"Cancellara is now perhaps past his very best." You are a moron. Go write about the grass growing or paint drying.