The four-time world champion and Classics star lined up for the race in Belgium as a potential winner having hit recent form in Italy where he won the time trial in Tirreno-Adriatico and scooped second place behind Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) in San Remo.
"I think I'm still feeling San Remo in my legs, that's for sure. I didn't have fresh legs or fresh feelings," Cancellara told Cyclingnews from the steps of the Leopard team bus at the finish.
"I have to be honest with myself, San Remo was really, really hard and then I went home, had a birthday party, then on Monday I had my book event and I wasn't able to ride my bike. I came to Belgium late last night and wasn't able to ride again. You finish San Remo so hard and then you start hard here in Waregem, it's a hard one," he said.
Despite not feeling 100 percent, Cancellara was an active participant in the race as the peloton tackled a number of crucial climbs. He was ever-present at the front of the race and formed a crack specialist group with Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank SunGard), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky). They were reeled in, but over the top of the Paterberg Cancellara set a blistering pace that split the field again. Ultimately it only led to Nuyens launching his winning move.
"If you look at the circumstances I'm happy with how everything went at the end of the day. When you're up there you never know what will happen. I knew there were other riders in my position from San Remo and spoke with Andreas Klier a bit. Tirreno was long and hard and so was San Remo and you feel that. It's normal, even if you're in good shape. The recovery is not enough."
Cancellara will rest up at the team's Classics base just outside Kortrik, Belgium for the next few days before returning to action at this weekend's E3 Harelbeke, a race he won last year before going on to dominate the Spring with wins in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"The schedule will stay the same, I'll do Harelbeke and then go home. It depends how Harelbeke goes, but there could be changes but for now it will be my normal programme and I'll ride just Saturday. The next few days I'll be riding my bike and recovering."