By Brecht Decaluwé
Swiss Fabian Cancellara is entirely focussed on taking gold in the Olympic time trial tomorrow. The two-time time trial World Champion has had a busy few weeks - first helping team-mate Carlos Sastre win the Tour de France and now preparing for his latest objective in Beijing.
"I was working for the team at the Tour, but didn't have to push it. I could stay cool and concentrate on Beijing," Cancellara said to Cyclingnews.
On the penultimate stage – Cérilly - Saint Amand Montrond – Cancellara was beaten for the second time by the surprisingly strong Stefan Schumacher by no less than 21 seconds. "The last time trial in the Tour de France was a final test for Beijing, but I figured it was nothing more: training for Beijing."
He was unsure whether to stay in the Tour de France until the final day, as he did not want to disturb his preparations for the Olympics. Cancellara stayed in France and was one of the riders who ran to congratulate Sastre when he crossed the finish line after the final time trial on the penultimate stage of the Tour de France.
"I didn't want to miss out, so I didn't leave the group. The negative side of that choice was that I had less time for my family because on Sunday evening we had some sponsor obligations in Paris. I left for Beijing on Monday morning at 7:00 – via Zurich, where I had a little bit of time together with my family," Cancellara said.
"By leaving so early it is possible for me to prepare myself in a relaxed way with my staff around me, and to deal with the jet-lag. I joined a Swiss marathon runner, who told me to leave as early as possible if I want to be 100 percent. The time difference to Beijing is six hours. This means that you need six days to accommodate, as you need a day for each hour difference," Cancellara continued.
Cancellara's pre-race tactics turned out to be invaluable since he managed to grab an unexpected bronze medal in the road race. The time trial world champion powered down the final descent, joined by Michael Rogers and Alexandre Kolobnev, and the three of them they joined the three leaders in the final kilometre.
Samuel Sánchez and Davide Rebellin had a better acceleration in their legs during the uphill sprint, but Cancellara did manage to keep off the other three riders for a bronze medal. "This is a big day for me after riding a magnificent race," said Cancellara. "Wednesday's time trial? First I need to recover, but with a medal in my bag I'm surely more relaxed and the motivation will only get bigger."