For the second time in two weeks of racing the Spring Classics, Fabian Cancellara found himself in a stalemate situation. After his outstanding victory at the semi-classic E3 Prijs Harelbeke and his 2010 Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix victories, he was widely considered as the strongest rider in the bunch and therefore subsequently marked in both the 'Ronde' and Roubaix. The result was that none of these monuments were taken by any of the race favourites, but by outsiders.
At Sunday's 'Hell of the North', Cancellara was again the victim of other team's tactics. While it was Quick Step's Sylvain Chavanel who was up the road in Flanders to cover for fast finisher Tom Boonen, the 'Queen of the Classics' saw Garmin-Cervelo's Johan Van Summeren in the lead while Cancellara was marked by top sprinter Thor Hushovd. Other contenders such as Alessandro Ballan (BMC) or Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) also refused to collaborate when the Swiss powerhouse launched a chase of the breakaway in the race finale.
Summing up the situation, Cancellara stated after the race: "If I had stopped for coffee, they would have done the same. They never got off my wheel."
Of course, Hushovd had a good reason not to take a turn in the chase, and so did Ballan, who also had team-mate Manuel Quinziato in front. But 'Spartacus' also had all the reasons to blame them for lost opportunities. "It's really too easy to hide behind their alibis like they are. Of course, I wasn't going to tow them behind me," he added. "It's a pity, because if they had helped in the chase, we would have finished just the three of us and you never know, I could have punctured or had cramps like in Flanders."
Cancellara saved his honour as supreme favourite by finishing second. "Everybody raced against me. The victory was not possible. This second place is like the victory to me. Today, I lost, but the others lost a bit more than me," he concluded.