Fabian Cancellara has played down suggestions that he is one of the favourites for overall success at the Dubai Tour, insisting he is riding without any pressure on his broad shoulders as he makes his debut with the Trek Factory Racing team.
Wednesday's opening 9.9km time trial in Dubai is flat and fast but riders will use normal road bikes rather than time trial bikes. That could give Cancellara an edge over main rivals Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Adriano Malori (Movistar).
However Cancellara revealed that he had been ill during Christmas and than his training was affected when he was hit by a car in early January. He made it clear he is not the favourite to win the time trial or take the overall winner's blue jersey.
"No. I'll be honest, It's a 10km time trial on normal (road) bikes. I have no ambitions at all, I'm just here for racing, getting into participating in the first race of the year with Trek Factory Racing, a new team. This is more what counts now," Cancellara told Cyclingnews at the pre-race press conference.
There was no lack of respect for the race, just honesty and perhaps a hint brinksmanship, to avoid any pre-race pressure.
"This is definitely a race. It's the first race (of the season), it's Dubai, it's a prestigious race, it's not Rond de Kerktorem (the circuit of the church tower). It's a big thing. But for me it’s the first race. A few guys have raced at the Tour Down Under and San Luis. I'll see how it goes."
"I've got Qatar and Oman, I've got a lot of kilometres and a lot of days when I'll race. That's why I'll go in with low pressure. That's normal and it’s good like that."
Three weeks behind in training
Cancellara revealed he is slightly behind with his training after being ill during the holidays. His brush with a car while out training at home in Switzerland also put him back.
"I had an okay winter but I'm still missing three week's (of training) because I was sick after the training camp in Spain in December and Christmas it’s not a good time to get sick," he said.
"Then I crashed before the team presentation. I lost a lot there. I'm healthy now though and as I've always said, if I'm healthy, I can train and work. I'm progressing and we'll see how it goes."
"There's Tony, there's Phinney, there are many others. But that's not my problem. I'm just looking to get ready and get in a racing mood."
"When your first race of the year is a 10km time trial, it's just pain. It's more pain than a one-hour time trial in the summer. It will be different. You're less aero, so it'll be more pain, less fast. We'll see…"
New Trek colours
Cancellara will compete for the first time in the new black Trek Factory Racing colours.
He is the team leader and cornerstone of the new-look team owned by the US-bike brand. He is also 32 and in his fourteenth season as a professional. He has become a role model and example for many of his new younger teammates.
"We're something new, something great, something that will stand out in cycling, more than in the last few years. Now Trek is not just sponsoring the team, they own the team. We have a close relationship for all the equipment and so everything works well. It's a big thing for us and for them," he explained.
"We've got some young, talented riders and it's a project for the future. I'm working and helping where I can. I'm working on my goals and on performing. I'm grateful to be in this team and wear the new jersey tomorrow."
Cancellara played down a suggestion that Trek Factory Racing is reliant on his success in the Classics, and so in some way, is his team.
"I'm not the owner of the team, I'm nothing. I'm just an employee that gets his salary at the end of the month. I have to ride my bike," he said.
"Luca Guercilena is the boss on the sports side. He makes the decisions and then we have sports directeurs, mechanics and soigneurs. I'm a rider and still want to be a rider, not a team manager. If I was a team manager I'd have triple the pressure."