With three wins to his name, Fabian Cancellara (Trek) is in illustrious company as the equal most successful rider at the Tour of Flanders. Cancellara has won the last two editions of De Ronde, solo in 2013 and out sprinting a four-man group last year, but a crash at E3 Harelbeke saw the Swiss break two vertebrae instantly ruling him out of the reminder of the classics.
Cancellara first won Flanders in 2010 after seven previous attempts with the victory proving to be a breakthrough for a sustained period of dominance on the cobbles. The 34-year-old also won his first Paris-Roubaix in 2010 to do the double which he repeated in 2013. A feat that even the great Eddy Merckx never managed.
Cyclingnews spoke with Cancellara at the Tour of Oman in February about the race, starting by asking him about the atmosphere on the morning of De Ronde.
"It's actually really amazing. When you leave the hotel it's quiet and the closer you get to Bruges where the big parking spot is with all the buses and people, somehow it starts," Cancellara said. "In the end, you come out of the bus, you get ready, and you go through the people to this big place with thousands of people where you go on stage to sign on.
"It's like a big arena, like 'let the animals go riding and make this happen.' It's like the re-start of a really big battle day."
Although Cancellara is Swiss, he has been wholeheartedly embraced by the Belgians and is considered a honorary Flandrien. In turn, Cancellara has produced some of his best performances at the race since 2010 with three wins and third place, making it hard to pin point one particular favourite memory.
"I have tonnes of memories," he said. "Every year, every time I won or I get something out of there, I have huge memories. I have tonnes of memories. Every year, every time I won or I get something out of there I have huge memories."
"There is tonnes of memories that stand out. Having my wife on the finish line after my tough year when I crashed in 2012 and I won in 2013. There's tonnes of things which is actually the beauty about winning but also the beauty of sport which can give you so much and give you big memories."
With 'three in the pocket', Cancellara added that explaing which win is his favourite is also not so straight forward.
"The thing is already a luxury problem that I won so much that in the end in the all the races I won, I won in different ways," he said. "It's not one race that I won in the same way as the others. Every big win came differently towards the end so everything stand out as special which is pretty unique for myself and something I am proud of."
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