Bad luck cost Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) the chance of defending his title in E3 Harelbeke on Friday. The two-time race winner suffered three punctures and two crashes during the race and despite being a major factor in several attacks had to settle for 22nd place on the day.
“Today was a day of bad luck,” Fabian Cancellara said after the race. “Luckily I don’t have so many of those days. I crashed early in the race but it wasn’t anything much. But straight after that I got two punctures right in a row. Tony Gallopin was there to bring me back but that was only a prelude of more to come.”
Cancellara had skipped Dwars door Vlaanderen earlier in the week as he recovered from his second-placed ride in Milan-San Remo and he looked in threatening form when he matched a move from Tom Boonen on the Taaienberg. Although he was caught behind a number of riders he was quickly onto the Belgian’s rear wheel.
At that point Cancellara had already come back from an early crash and two punctures in quick succession.
On the Kwaremont Cancellara repaid Boonen with his own attack from the front. The move was far more devastating than Boonen’s earlier foray but luck was again lacking and the RadioShack leader suffered another puncture. With no team assistance in sight he was forced to ride to the crest of the climb with a flat tyre.
“The original plan was to try something on the Kwaremont and that worked. There were only four guys in the group. Then the puncture of the front wheel came but I had to keep moving on the cobbles to the mechanic for a new wheel. Bennati came by me and I told him to keep riding so at least we’d have someone in the front group. Our Trek rep Jordan Roessingh was at the top with a wheel but we got hit from the back by a Rabobank rider, both of us hitting the ground. By then I’d lost more than one minute. Rasty was there for me and we made it back to the group again. But it was all too much. So much bad luck makes it hard to play for the win.”
Cancellara eventually made it back to the lead group but by then he’d paid for his earlier efforts and with a fairly flat run-in to the finish he was forced to roll in at the back of the lead group.
The Swiss rider had mechanical problems in last year’s race but still had more than enough to put in one of his most impressive performances to win by a minute. However this year’s crashes, combined with the timing of the events were major factors in the final result. Had his luck not escaped him on the Kwaremont the race would have had a far different complexion in the closing kilometres and although a sprint was the likely outcome the number of riders competing in the group would have been drastically reduced had Cancellara’s break stuck.
“We can’t complain about the conditions of the riders,” said team director Dirk Demol.
"He was strong enough that he managed to come back to a group of some 40 riders but all the teammates were blown up by then, so too much was too much. This was one of those days where everything goes wrong,"