Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) may have broken Flemish hearts by cruising to victory in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday but the local fans have a passion for cycling that goes beyond national boundaries. And so, far from being vilified, the visiting conqueror was feted by his Belgian fan club at the Centrum Ronde van Vlaaderen in Oudenaarde on Monday evening.
Like Sean Kelly before him, Cancellara’s feel for racing on the cobbles has made him a firm favourite in Flanders and it is fitting that his dedicated fan club established its base to the café at the Tour of Flanders museum last winter.
Cancellara visited the fan club’s inauguration last November and he made good on his promise to return on Monday evening, when the crowds massed outside the centre gave Cancellara’s arrival the feel of a Papal visit.
“I’m taking the opportunity to greet my fans when I can," Cancellara said, according to Het Laatste Nieuws. "I feel tired after De Ronde but I’m very glad to be here. My Flemish fans are always there for me so this is a small effort. These people give me a really warm and fantastic feeling."
Cancellara confirmed that he will take part in Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs. The Antwerp race will be his final tune-up for next weekend’s Paris-Roubaix, where he takes the start as the prohibitive favourite.