Milan-San Remo: Cancellara ready to start final Classics run

Cyclingnews will have live coverage of Milan-San Remo from 8am GMT on Saturday, March 19.

Fabian Cancellara certainly sounds like a man who's ready to retire and move on to the next opportunities and challenges.

Cancellara, who turns 35 on Friday, reiterated to the assembled journalists at his press conference ahead of Milan-San Remo this week that his planned retirement after this season is about getting back to real life.

"As I mentioned already, cycling is not my life. My life is home," he said.

"I could ride until I'm 38, but that's not what motivates me and that's not what I want. There are 200 days more or less that you're on the road, and it's not always sunshine and it's not always winning.

"When you come home and go, I saw already in the last few weeks and months how it is. I have two kids at home, I have my wife and I have friends and a social, private life. This is now getting less because cycling takes more time than before."

But Cancellara has some unfinished business in cycling that he plans on taking care of this year, and first up is chasing after another win at Milan-San Remo. Cancellara won the Italian monument in 2008, has been second three times and third on one occasion. Another win this year would help cement his legacy as one of the top Classics riders of all time.

He'll roll the dice one more time at Milan-San remo, a race he refers to as cycling's biggest lottery, and then look further down the road toward Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

"What I try is to be relaxed, but when I look at this week, and I look actually more what is after San Remo because San Remo is such a huge lottery that even if you have super perfect shape this can even not help you, because it's the most unpredictable race in my opinion of the monuments we have on the table," he said.

"I'm motivated and focused, but I'm even more for what comes after."

Cancellara comes into Milan-san Remo fresh off his win Tuesday during the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, where he beat all comers in the 10.1km individual time trial. The race didn't offer the perfect preparation because of the cancelled mountain stage, he said, but all of the riders are in a similar position.

For Cancellara, the key to Milan-San Remo, aside from luck, is versatility while reacting to the right moves and making the good decisions.

"We see the last years with the cold and not the cold, the rain and not the rain, of course you need to have the condition and certain experience, and you need to know how to do the sprint," he said. "Last year I wasn't so bad but I was just in the wrong place, so I was missing the sprinter experience probably more.

"But you cannot say," he continued. "Maybe one year it goes on the Cipressa, maybe one year it goes between Cipressa and Poggio, maybe one year, and I have more possibilities and chances, and that's also actually hard, [deciding] what you're going to stick on, what you're going to do because others are looking just for the sprint, or perhaps an attack on the Poggio or the last kilometre."

There's also a host of relatively young, very fast riders that have arrived on the cycling scene over the past handful of years, a development that Cancellara welcomes. Etixx-QuickStep's sprinting phenom Fernando Gaviria, who recently won rainbow stripes at the track world championships in London, will be one of the new riders to look out for. Cancellara saw Gaviria's speed first-hand when the 21-year-old Colombian won the stage 3 sprint finish at Tirreno-Adriatico.

"He did the sprint not even in the drops, he was on the hoods," Cancellara said. "He doesn't look, he just goes, like young riders are doing. I want to do it like they are. They don't think about it, they just go.

"That's nice to see and that's also why it's good to have these young riders, so I can also try to change me, because I kind of want to be young like them. I don't say riding blind, but it's a nice situation we have right now. We saw the way they've been riding in Paris-Nice, the way people we riding here."

With Tom Boonen fighting his way back from a crash at the Abu Dhabi Tour last fall, Cancellara will be battling many of the new rising stars this year in the Classics. He named BMC's Greg Van Avermaet, Tinkoff's Peter Sagan, Lotto Soudal's Tiesj Benoot, Team Sky's Geraint Thomas and Etixx-QuickStep's Zdenek Stybar as just a few. There's also some of the usual suspects for Milan-San Remo, including the Dimension Data duo of Mark Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

"There are a lot of others who are hungry, but I'm hungry too. But I've won already. We have Jasper Stuyven; we have a good team. We're moving up there, and I'm looking forward to a nice challenge at the Classics."

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