After a string of near misses in 2011, Fabian Cancellara could be forgiven for tearing up the playbook and starting again as the new season dawns, but the RadioShack-Nissan man is adamant that his preparation will not change ahead of the coming Classics campaign.
“I’m doing the same things that I’ve always done because up to now that’s what has always brought me into great condition,” Cancellara told Cyclingnews. “Last year, the only thing missing was a bit of luck, but it’s just that luck is what counts.”
The overwhelming favourite on the eve of the cobbled Classics last year after a resounding win at the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, Cancellara fell short of victory in the monuments, and ended his spring campaign with podium finishes at Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
In theory, the newly-merged RadioShack-Nissan squad should provide Cancellara with more robust support in the Classics than Leopard Trek did last year, but the Swiss admitted that he will miss his long-time ally, Stuart O’Grady, who left for pastures new at GreenEdge.
“I’ll miss certainly O’Grady but I’ll have to live with that,” he said. “It’s going to be strange racing against him and he’s said the same thing to me. But in the end, I know what I have to do – I still have to work and give my all.”
The winds of change that swept through 2011 also saw Cancellara’s iron grip on the world of time trialling loosened by Tony Martin. The first murmurs of unrest came when the German beat Cancellara in the time trial at the Tour de France, and the revolution was televised when Martin captured the world title in Copenhagen.
In 2012, however, the empire is determined to strike back, and Cancellara admitted that his dedication to the art of time trialling may have waned slightly in the latter years of his reign.
“If you’re trying to get back to the top, it’s probably easier than when you’re at the top. When time passes while you’re at the top, you lose a bit of your ability to work at your best,” Cancellara said. “It’s clear that in the last two years I’ve done less, and if you do less, then clearly one day someone will come along and overthrow you. Now that I’ve been overthrown I’m looking to return.”
While his rivalry with Martin will be the focus of considerable attention in 2012, Cancellara insisted that his primary concern is on ensuring that his own performances against the watch return to their former lustre. “I don’t see it as a head-to-head against him, I see it as a challenge to myself because I know what I have to do,” he said.
Along with Bradley Wiggins, the pair will line up as the favourites for the medals in the London 2012 Olympics time trial in August. As befits his status as defending champion, Cancellara already braved the London traffic to scout the course in November, and he pointed out that it presents a different challenge to the world championships.
“The time trial takes place a little bit outside of London and so it will depend a little bit on the wind and what kind of day it is,” he said. “It will be a hard race, because you start in one point and finish in another, so it’s not like you do laps like at the Worlds. Anyway, in the end it’s going to be hard, because a 45km time trial like that always is.”
Five days beforehand, the road race will opens the cycling programme at the Olympics. Given his stirring finish at the Copenhagen Worlds road race, might Cancellara be able to produce something special and surprise the sprinters in London?
“I’m always capable of doing something special,” he grinned.