In last week's win at E3 Harelbeke, the Swiss rider found the confidence that capped off five months of preparation for a return to Flanders where he crashed out in 2012, suffering multiple fractures to his collarbone in a freak feed-zone spill. Time back at home, reviewing his rivals and last year's race, skipping the Three Days of De Panne; resting and training have resulted in Cancellara being "more than race ready".
"I've done my homework, I've done everything and now there's just Sunday's race and with all the experience I have... for me it's important for me to say in Brugge on the start line that I've done what I have to do," he said on Friday in his pre-race media conference. "That's what the most important thing - to be calm and relaxed and to not make mistakes."
Recent Classics seasons have been billed as a battle of two strongmen - Cancellara vs. Boonen - but this year, given the Belgian's season began on the back foot due to an elbow injury and illness, there is a new element in Peter Sagan (Cannondale), winner in Gent-Wevelgem. Cancellara though, was unwilling to rule out Omega Pharma-Quick-Step's Boonen, with much riding on his performance as a three-time winner and also that it's The Ronde's Centenary.
"Never forget Tom because he's experienced enough in this race and you never know what's going to come," he said.
In the week since Cancellara withdrew from Gent-Wevelgem, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step dominated the Three Days of De Panne and the Cannondale team also showed considerable strength in the event's opening stage for Sagan to take victory. Sky continued its pre-Flanders build up away from racing, as did BMC and Cancellara's own RadioShack-Leopard team. While the events of the last week go some way to indicating what is to come on Sunday, Cancellara believes that his own team can still swing a surprise result with an experienced, and perhaps underrated, line-up that includes Danilo Hondo, Yaroslav Popovych, Tony Gallopin and former winner Stijn Devolder.
"Of Stijn I have big ambitions and I have a lot of trust in him because I know that he's dedicating a lot now, and also internally we've been working to be 100 per cent on Sunday," the 32-year-old explained. "When he's going, then he's going. When you see how he won his Tour of Flanders it was quite impressive.
"We will play our cards, we have our direction of racing and of course with the victory on Friday we've had a big confidence boost that I think we needed, that was really necessary to be on top. I trust in my team that we're going to be ready and we will do our best.
"We have possibilities to do things that people won't be expecting."
Calm at the site of his 2012 woes
If any demons were lingering in Cancellara's mind following his dramatic exit from the race in 2012, he suggested that his best approach to the troublesome feed zone where his crash occurred was a certain steadiness, while admitting that he will be happy to get it out of the way.
"I just have to be quiet," he said. "Probably after the feed zone, [if] everything goes in the right direction, I will play my cards. At the end I know there's just the laps to do - we do a different parcours - but in the end, I know what I have to do and that's what counts."
He will however, be wary of any stray bidons.
"It's not the feed bags that's the problem, it's the bidons," Cancellara said. "They go out... they roll back into the peloton. It's not a mistake from the riders or that they need to change the system, it's just that the bidons are somehow dangerous. Of course I will keep an eye on the place where we're going to pass."
Much has been made of Cancellara vs. Sagan, with the Swiss rider unimpressed by the Slovakian's victory celebrations. In Milan-San Remo, they essentially marked each other out of the race win, instead settling for the minor placings. While Cancellara takes a certain confidence from the fact that he was able to stay close to Sagan in the sprint to the line, he makes it clear that he does not exactly want a two-man arm-wrestle for the win.
"If it's the scenario that he's there and I'm there and nobody else then of course, if he's not doing the work then I'm not doing it," Cancellara stated. "I don't say my excuse is that I have won already, but what I have seen on Sunday, they had Peter in the front with the other riders and they bring him to the finish line.
"I know racing is not easy and of course I would do it differently to what happened on Sunday at Gent-Wevelgem but I was not there.
"I have my weapons," he said. "There's not always the possibility to do something but on the other hand I'm not racing for second place."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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