Fabian Cancellara has been ruled out of the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia due to a season rife with serious injury and illness. His absence will leave a hole in both the Trek Factory Racing squad for the team time trial and Switzerland's roster for the individual time trial and road race.
The Swiss rider fractured two vertebrae in a crash at the E3 Harelbeke in March, and while he recovered and returned to form for the Tour de France, riding into the maillot jaune on stage 2, his misfortunes returned when he was involved in a high-speed crash the next day and fractured two different bones in his back and left the race.
Cancellara re-started his season at the Vuelta a Espana with an aim to regain his form for the Worlds, but a lingering intestinal ailment left him empty and unable to fight to the finish, and he abandoned on stage 3.
"Physically I could probably go on and race the World Championships. But it’s the mind that controls the body, and I don’t have the will to go through the whole come-back thing once more after the rollercoaster that this season has been. It's a matter of focus. Dealing with a serious injury during the course of one season is not easy, and I have had to do it twice already this year. It’s mentally very challenging and it drains your energy. I don't have batteries anymore for a third come-back in one season," Cancellara said.
While Cancellara has four world titles in the individual time trial (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010), he has never managed to finish on the podium of a road race world championship. He was fourth behind Mark Cavendish in Copenhagen in 2011 and fifth when Cadel Evans won in Mendrisio in 2009. The Richmond course, with its cobbled Libby Hill ascent and long rise to the finish could have suited a rider like Cancellara, who has three wins in the Tour of Flanders and three in Paris-Roubaix.
"I’m sad not to be racing the Worlds, of course," Cancellara said, acknowledging that Richmond may be his last realistic chance of filling that gap in his impressive pamares. "The TTT is an important race for our team and everybody knows how much I love racing for Switzerland. I'm sorry for the TFR boys. They did a great job yesterday in Alberta and it's always a great experience to do a TTT at this level. I also feel sad for the Swiss team. Each year is always a lot of fun to be a team for one occasion, I love that. The Worlds next year don't suit me very well, I'm not a sprinter. This could have been my last chance, but then again, the way this season is going for me, not really."
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