Ireland’s Sean Kelly was one of the finest ever Classics specialists, winning nine of cycling's 'Monuments', including two Paris-Roubaix. After watching Fabian Cancellara’s (Saxo Bank) triumphant display at the 2010 Paris-Roubaix, Kelly believes the Swiss maestro deserves to be considered amongst the best Classics riders of all time. On Sunday, Cancellara became just the sixth rider history to complete the Flanders-Roubaix double inside a season.
"He’s up there with best riders of all time in the Classics and going forward I can see him winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Lombardia," said Kelly, who won Liège-Bastogne-Liège twice and Lombardia three times.
"In today’s race Cancellara was the big favourite and who could stay with him was the big question. Now we have the answer. No one was near," Kelly told Cyclingnews.
Cancellara rode away from his rivals on the Mons-en-Pévèle sector, with still more than 50 kilometres-to-go. Kelly said that although it was a brave move, it could have failed had the chase group contained more energy. However, with Tom Boonen (Quick Step) starting to fade and riders like Pippo Pozzato (Katusha) unable to follow wheels, the chasers soon lost their impetus and began racing for second.
"Cancellara has the cohones to go with 50k to go the finish, with ten, fifteen guys behind. You have to think that if they ride behind they can leave you out there but he went away, further away, and they couldn’t make any impression on him."
Kelly was puzzled by Cancellara’s attack initially, wondering if the Saxo Bank rider had gone too early. "It thought it could be too early because you have to be careful. When you feel so strong and you feel so good that’s the time when you can make the big mistakes and from the past and in my career I made that big mistake so I was thinking that if they organise behind and there’s some strong guys it could be the wrong tactic - Not at all."
Cancellara’s move was too much for his rivals. It was timed perfectly and with a trio of riders up the road he was able to jump clear and use the group for shelter before attacking again. His main threat was meant to come from Tom Boonen, but according to Kelly the Belgian was already tiring before Cancellara’s move.
"They were all riding very well but when Cancellara attacked Boonen was starting to suffer. Although before then he was starting to make a big impression. I think when Breschel lost contact Boonen's tactic was to try to keep him from getting back in, but he paid the price."
In the end though, tactics were almost irrelevant and once Cancellara was clear his lead only grew. "You can only do so much with tactics but when you’ve got a guy so strong you can have all the tactics in the world but it can be no good. The power and the form he’s in no one can touch him."