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Fabian Cancellara attacking on the Haaghoek, heading to the Leberg. This appeared to be the race winning move, but things didn't quite go to plan for Cancellara that afternoon.
Gallery of the Swiss rider's season
Fabian Cancellara has said he is more motivated for success in 2012 than he was before last season in which he failed to successfully defend either of his two Monument wins and was outshined by Tony Martin in the big time trial rendezvous of the season.
The 30-year-old Swiss admitted that his 2011 season lacked the high prestige victory he wanted but he refused to see the past 12 months as unsuccessful.
He said: “The season shows that I’m human. In a way I think I won more this year than when I was winning races because I showed right until the end – even when I was exhausted on the bike, that I was fighting. And this, especially in the Belgian classics from the Belgian people earned me a lot of respect.”
Despite the scarcity of first places, Cancellara’s crowd-pleasing aggressive performances netted him podiums at Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“The big win was missing,” he confirmed to Procycling. “Those situations in the races came because everyone was watching me or were against me and that makes it even harder to do a result. It’s easier to win races than to defend races.”
Elsewhere, there was no Tour de France prologue to target and in all major time trials where he rivalled German powerhouse Tony Martin, he was off the pace. In the individual time trials at the Tour, Vuelta and the Worlds, the Swiss conceded an average of 1min29sec to Martin’s blistering pace.
However the four-time winner of the world time trial admitted that he was far more focused on the Copenhagen road race. He finished fourth behind Mark Cavendish, Matt Goss and André Greipel.
“At the Worlds this year I prepared more for the road race than the time trial, and I saw the difference. I trained at home with the TT bike but I trained more for the road race and against the sprinters. That for me gave me a lot of respect for what I have done.”
Looking ahead he says the incorporation of Johan Bruyneel and large chunks of the RadioShack squad into the new, RadioShack-Nissan team has re-fired his enthusiasm.
“Now I must say I am more motivated than I was last year,” he said. “I didn’t really have that last year. I don’t have high expectations for next year, I just have high goals – that’s my motivation and for this I’m giving everything.”
His new manager Bruyneel’s chief duty will be guiding the Schleck brothers at the Tour, but it will also be the first time the Belgian has focused on the Classics too.
“The other challenge is with me in the Classics – a challenge he’s never had before. He’s had a few riders, but they were always mid-field and they were happy if they won a pre-classic or had a good result and were satisfied by that, but now they have a leader and it’s like full gas.”
2012 offers numerous opportunities for Cancellara to shine. As well as target the cobbled classics, Cancellara suggested he may target the hilly Amstel Gold Race, before preparing for the Tour and Olympics. At the London Games he will defend his 2008 time trial title and look to improve on his second place in the road race. Earlier this month, he visited London to recce both the time trial and road course with Bruyneel.
He says his current plan is to finish the Tour, but given as the road race occurs just six days after the three-week grand tour, Cancellara left open the possibility he might withdraw before Paris.
“The first thing as the Classics and from there it’s a new plan. I will have support from Johan for sure. In 2008 I did the whole tour but it was not really planned. It depends on the shape, on everything.”
At RadioShack-Nissan’s first training camp early December in Spain, Cancellara was confined to his room with the ‘flu.
A full feature on Fabian Cancellara appears in next month's edition of Procycling magazine.