Slumped against the barriers beyond the finishing straight of the time trial course on the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia, Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) took a long time to answer reporters’ questions as he reflected on almost certain failure in his last possible bid for the one Grand Tour leader’s jersey missing from his palmares.
The Swiss veteran, clearly drained after giving everything on the flat 9.8km Apeldoorn course despite being stricken by illness, threw a towel over his head and, even when he did rise to his feet, slumped his head over his bike as he came to terms with not being able to add the maglia rosa to his collection of Tour de France and Vuelta a España leader’s jerseys.
Under normal circumstances, eighth in a time trial after two days of illness and fever is a respectable performance in any rider’s book. For Cancellara, however, now just months away from retirement, it was a long way from the dream result he had hoped to take away from what is his last ever Giro d’Italia.
“My legs weren’t strong enough, I spoke this morning with Luca [Guercilena - Trek-Segafredo sports director] because I knew there would be a lot of pressure,” Cancellara said when he finally came round to talking.
“I’ve been working so hard here for so many weeks to try to be ready and I was really moving along in the right direction. But as I’ve said, I’ve been ill and my strength hasn’t come back, something was missing or lacking.
“I did the maximum I could but I’m not here just to ride around. I’m really disappointed.”
Cancellara vowed to fight on and get something out of his final Giro, but his main target for now, after being “ill and in bed with fever and diarrhea for two days” is to recover as best he can.
“I’m sure I can have other objectives in this race, but for now I just hope I can return to Italy feeling a little bit stronger,” he said.
“The next thing over the next few days is to recover as best as possible, to lose as little energy as possible, even if it means getting dropped from time to time, so I can get back to Italy as strong as possible.”
For the 35-year-old, after his near-miss in the Tour of Flanders and crash in Paris-Roubaix, the opening day of this Giro represents another setback in a final season that has veered far from the fairytale script.
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