Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) had warned that he would not be a threat for victory in the opening time trial at the Dubai Tour and shrugged off his below average ride and fifth place finish, 25 seconds slower than stage winner Taylor Phinney.
Cancellara admitted that he spent a week without training in mid-January after being in an accident with a car near his home in Bern, Switzerland. That affected his training, and he plans to ride a triptych of the Dubai Tour, the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman to get his form back to where he wants it.
"The accident cost me one week on the bike. When you get hit and have a lot of pain in your elbow, you can't just do the rollers at home. It fatigues your body even more," he said after his ride as the sun set in downtown Dubai.
"I was sick after the first training camp [in December] and put on a kilo at Christmas. So losing the three weeks means it's uncertain how the form will come for the spring. But I'm here for three weeks, I'm racing all three races and then I'll return to Europe to see how it goes."
Cancellara rarely seems to suffer on the bike, especially in time trials, but admitted the 9.9km time trial hurt.
"I felt like I was missing a lung in the final two kilometres," he joked.
"I've done some efforts in training but you can’t compare it. I was full of acid in my legs. I've always said that the hardest thing is to do time trials when you're not in condition, you have more pain than ever. When you're in good condition, 10km is somehow easier."
While almost every rider competing in Dubai will head home after Saturday's fourth and final stage, Cancellara will take an evening flight to Doha and then start the Tour of Qatar on Sunday. The back-to-back stage races will give him 10 consecutive days of racing in the sun of the Middle East.
"I've heard there's also a QuickStep rider doing it but let's hope we have a big winter in Europe now. That's why I decided to spend some time at home in January and then do these three races one after the other," he explained.
"It's worked in the other years and to have four more days in the legs is not too bad. I'll also be acclimatized too, so it's not too difficult to do."
Phinney's race to lose
Cancellara thinks that Phinney now has an excellent shot at overall victory, thanks to already having raced at the Tour de San Luis.
"He's a good sprinter, too, and there's bonus seconds out on the road. I think he's got a good chance," Cancellara predicted, before adding a warning to the young American.
"He did Argentina (the Tour de San Luis). When you have seven days of racing in your legs, including a time trial, it all counts. He has an advantage and if he shows his strength all week, then it's fair he goes home with the victory.
"I don’t want to say there's a long way to go but there are some tricky stages, so let's see how it goes."