"The engine, that's me," said Fabian Cancellara at the Tour de France prologue finish in Rotterdam today, when officials proceeded to scan his bike for a hidden motor. The day's winner could not have chosen a better demonstration of power to those who doubted his performances: he completed the 8.9km-course in exactly 10 minutes, averaging 53.4 km/h, topping what seemed an almost unbeatable feat by German Tony Martin (Team HTC-Columbia) who had led the time trial almost from beginning to end.
"This morning, I thought about the time that I could do on an almost 9km-course, and told myself - maybe 10 minutes. I just hope the battery will last those ten minutes..." Cancellara said, still feeling a tad bitter about recent allegations. "My body worked at 100 percent for exactly ten minutes, and I think that was a nice job.
"As a prologue specialist you always give the very best of yourself, so that was my goal. I felt really good this morning and then the whole day. I had a bit of a hard time in the bus when I came to the start, seeing the rain outside the window. I was praying that the yellow, or the sunshine, would come out, and it finally did, bringing me luck. In the end, finishing in exactly ten minutes is what made me even more happy."
The 29-year-old Saxo Bank rider once again showed that he is the fastest over very short time trial distances, so if his bike was taken to a [negative] scan at the finish today, he reckoned the way in which he had won today's and other prologues in the past was proof enough that he did this without electric power.
"I don't really need another demonstration, do I?" he said. "I win all the prologues in this way, so if there's a scanner in the finish or not, it doesn't faze me. I think they'd better spend the money on something else. But that's the way it is. If somebody thinks Cancellara has a motor in his bike, then that's his problem, not mine. In the end, I am calm, and proud, because I win in this way."
It will be a special evening for the Swiss, with the prospect of riding over the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix in a few days wearing the yellow jersey. Asked whether the team would fight to keep the overall lead in the next stages, he said, "For sure. However, we still have to look at the next few days to see what our goals will be exactly. The stage to Arenberg will be important, so we'll have to look at that, too. Certainly, we will want to keep it for as long as we can."
Because of the lack of time bonuses again this year at the Tour, Cancellara can be almost certain that no sprinter will be able to take the jersey away from him in the flat stages of Northern Europe, before the Tour gets down to the mountains. "I'm a lucky man, as a Tour de France without time bonuses is always good for me," he said. "I think I will take advantage of this, as I can be a little more calm over the next few days."
Cancellara, an absolute Classics and time trials specialist, also evolved in recent years to become a respected climber, winning week-long races such as Tirenno-Adriatico in 2008 and the Tour de Suisse just last year. But he declined to speculate that a Grand Tour, let alone the Tour de France, would be within his reach.
"It's true that I have 16 days in yellow on my account now, but not within the same Tour de France...The Tour is a dream, not a goal. You can keep on dreaming about something even though you never attain it. I know how it tastes, maybe also is needed to achieve it, but for the moment it remains a dream. Now, I am riding for my goals, and there are still a few ones out there."
We're sure Tuesday's stage three to Arenberg ranks on top of his to-do list at this time.
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