Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) believes that the responsibility to control the Tour of Flanders rests with his rivals at Omega-Pharma QuickStep. The 2010 race winner held court at his team’s press conference outside Brugge and despite not wining a race on Belgian soil in over 12 months, he still attracted the cycling world’s press to the event.
Cancellara’s last win in Belgium came at the E3 Harelbeke last spring. It was supposed to be the begging of an incredible spring for the Swiss rider but he was left frustrated in both Flanders and Roubaix, as a combination of negative tactics from cannier riders out-foxed him for the wins.
This spring Cancellara is again in superb form. Two crashes and three punctures in E3 destroyed his chances of victory, while in Gent-Wevelgem he was one of the race’s most aggressive riders in the closing stages.
With the route at Flanders changing for the first time since the 1970s, Cancellara was asked about his opinion on the parcours.
“It’s going to be a new edition but it's still the Tour of Flanders. With the loops we are going to do it looks harder, but it’s up to the riders to make the race harder. With the wet conditions and the Kwaremont and Paterberg it’s going to be harder than the previous finish with the Muur and the Bosberg,” he said.
“The last 10km to the end is tough and you have to be focussed all the time. We’ve done the parcours and we’ve happy with it. It’s not just the Kwaremont and Paterberg that will make the race. You’ve got lots of other climbs that will hurt more than people think.
Cancellara also faced questions over his team. Last season they were criticised for their lack of support in major races, leaving their leader exposed to the likes of BMC and QuickStep. However, this year, the likes of Popovich and Bennati have both been able allies. The merger of RadioShack and Leopard has given him the best support from each of the two teams.
“I’m confident and I believe in them," he said. "You saw in Milan-San Remo that we did it together. Last year everything was new and now it’s 50-50 and everyone is really motivated. For a lot of the new riders this is the fist time they’ve had a real leader. I’ve seen how they are and they’re training and they’ll be ready on Sunday.
“But I have to focus on myself and the team and well see at the finish how everything went. I believe in myself and what I’ve done and I believe that my luck will come.”
Heading into the race Cancellara has been billed as the joint favourite alongside a resurgent Tom Boonen (Omega-Pharma QuickStep). The Belgian outfit head into the race with a number of options, with Sylvain Chavanel and even Nikki Terpstra also dangers. However it’s Chavanel who poses the bigger threat. The Frenchman was in scintillating form to close out victory in De Panne on Thursday and with second place last year he will surely have personal ambitions beyond supporting Boonen. Cancellara suggested that Omega would have to race with their heads to ensure they did not scupper their own chances.
“It’s nice that Tom is back - he had some back luck with a lot of things and it’s nice to have riders on a high level,” Cancellara said.
“They have the pressure, they have two leaders. They have won many races and they will be there to pull, it’s not our focus to pull at the beginning, when you have two leaders you have more possibilities. When you see how they’ve been riding and their results you have to deal with that. I had to live with that in pervious years. Maybe we can step back and say we don’t have to control the race.”