Fabian Cancellara had take a low-key approach to Tirreno-Adriatico at the start due a cold, but he opened up his lungs and the power in his legs to dominate the final time trial in San Benedetto dello Tronto. His victory reminded everyone that he will again be a contender in the Spring Classics despite 2016 being the final season of his long and successful career.
Cancellara covered the 10.1km out-and-back time trial in 11:08, faster than his 2015 winning time of 11:23 on a course apparently 100 metres shorter than this year’s route. The Trek-Segafredo rider has now won the final Tirreno-Adriatico time trial four times in his long career. He beat Johan Le Bon (FDJ) by 13 seconds, with usual time trial rival Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step) in third at 15 seconds. Alex Dowsett (Movistar) was a solid fourth, also at 15 seconds.
“I’m really happy to win again. I’ve finished a tough week on a high and now its time to rest up and enjoy this win. It’s time for the president of my fan club to give me a fourth magnum of Sassicaia ride wine as he promised me for every victory this season,” Cancellara said. His season's palmares also includes wins in Mallorca, Algarve and Strade Bianche.
“I wasn’t 100% healthy at the start of this week but I’ve done the work I need to do. I’ve seen that my rivals are strong too and I saw how Sagan and Van Avermaet fought hard for victory here. The Classics will be a fascinating battle with those two and other riders who aren’t here."
The Tirreno-Adriatico time trial is about power and speed and Cancellara again pushed himself to his limits.
"It was windy fast, short and, yeah, it felt good. I mean it was very hard; it may have seemed easy, but it was not," he explained. "I didn't do anything specific today, with such a short time trial I focused on pure power. I did not have the easiest week, and so I am really happy with my performance. I went out like a mad man, with everything I had."
"On one side of the course you can go 60km/h, but on the other side you have to really push the pedals, and it's painful. It's a race of pure concentration – you have adrenaline the whole time, but you have to focus on pushing, focus on the road, the asphalt, focus on breathing, and also try to find a way to go over your limit.”
“Time trials are about the clock, about who goes the fastest, so you have to find a way to go on a level where you are normally not riding. It's an over-limit race. When I saw 1k to go my legs felt already empty, full of lactic acid, everywhere, almost out of your ears. You have to give all-in, all that you have, until the end because the finish line is what counts; there you can stop breathing and stop thinking."
In every press conference, Cancellara is asked if he is considering changing his mind about retirement. His answer is always the same: No. Cancellara will turn 35 on Friday, the day before his last Milan-San Remo and he has no plans to continue what he describes as his nomadic lifestyle.
“I ate my last ever plate of lasagne in the usual hotel in San Benedetto del Tronto last night and I know I won’t be back racing next year. I won’t change my mind,” he said.
“Next spring I’ll know I can book a skiing holiday without asking the team or look at my contract. That makes me feel at ease. That doesn’t mean I won’t be making huge sacrifices until the very end of my career, I will. But this year all the sacrifices are easier to make and I’m making even more than ever as the road gets steeper.”
“If you want to win, you’ve got to work hard and give it everything. I’m using my experience but I'm also racing carefree and on instinct like a young rider. I hope to race like that until the very end of my career.”