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Gut feeling the winning way at CSC

CSC's DS Scott Sunderland with Fabian Cancellara in the Roubaix velodrome

CSC's DS Scott Sunderland with Fabian Cancellara in the Roubaix velodrome (Image credit: AFP)

By Hedwig Kröner in Roubaix

Team CSC's directeur sportif Scott Sunderland was over the moon on the Roubaix velodrome lawn oval as his protégé, Fabian Cancellara, received his pavé stone on the podium. The Australian was amazed at the young Swiss' coolness and of course, his physical abilities. "He's only 25 years old, he's still got so much ahead of him," Sunderland said.

Looking back on the race, he explained that racing instinct had been an important factor for Cancellara's win. "I talked to Bjarne on the phone and asked him if he could see the faces of the other riders on his big screen at home, and he said that Boonen and Van Petegem looked good. Then I told Fabian about it, but he was just very cool. He asked me how far the Carrefour de l'Arbre was, and I said 'you have one more section, then a little bit of tarmac and then you're there.' He decided to attack even before... He's so good you can't hold him back."

Sunderland would have preferred Cancellara to attack at sector 4 (Carrefour de l'Arbre) instead of sector 5, but trusted his rider's instincts. "He's got a great feeling for the race," Sunderland continued. " You feel it as a rider, too, you can't always do as your DS tells you - you have to follow your gut feeling. He got 10 seconds, and at 15 I told him to try and give a sprint to get Gusev off his wheel. I wanted him to get to the velodrome alone, without having to think about someone in his back. At first I wasn't sure he'd make it, but then... I admit I was nervous. I kept thinking 'Don't puncture, don't crash...'"

But the race had turned in favour of CSC long before that final attack. The Arenberg sector was again a decisive stage in the race this year. Fortunately, nobody got hurt at this point, but it was at this mythical pavé road that the first great split occurred. And Quick.Step's rivals soon noticed that the World Champion was on his own in the front group after it, and decided to take advantage of the situation.

"I told Fabian to ride really hard on the next sector, to break the rhythm of the chasing Quick.Step - and it worked," Sunderland explained his team's tactics. "Quick.Step was fantastic last week, but they just missed it today. It was the reverse of the Tour of Flanders: at the Koppenberg, we should have had two more there but they couldn't get on because Quick.Step put the foot on the gas. That's just the way it goes sometimes."

Sunderland also commented about CSC's mechanical 'fortune'. "It was great. We only had one puncture with Allan Johansen. We had no wheel problems, the bikes were great - everything. The mechanics did a ton of work. I stressed them out beforehand. It's hard because it's a one day race. It's like getting ready for a three week tour. We had three bikes for everyone, a lot of pairs of wheels, five people out on the road, with one or two pairs of wheels and bidons."

Finally, the second year CSC director must have been quietly confident in Cancellara's ability. "When I paid for the hotel rooms yesterday morning in Kortrijk, I said 'can you keep the rooms for us and some champagne for tomorrow'. How's that for confidence?"

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