In what will be a very busy year for Fabian Cancellara, with the Tour de France and the Olympics on the radar screen, the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek star says he wants to start off the 2012 campaign by regaining his momentum in the spring classics.
Cancellara is racing this week at Oman after debuting at the Tour of Qatar, two important pre-season races that will help put “Spartacus” on a winning track heading toward the season’s first major goals.
Last year, Cancellara won E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and two second-places at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, with third at Tour of Flanders. For anyone else, that would be a career-making season, but if you’re Cancellara, coming home without a major victory is a disappointment.
“I go to the races to win, that’s what counts,” Cancellara told VeloNews.com. “I was satisfied with the spring classics last year, because I gave 100 percent. Sometimes you do not win and winning is what everyone remembers.”
Cancellara was the man to beat in 2011 and often found himself with his rivals marking his wheel. That was certainly the case at Flanders and Roubaix, where he was foiled despite being in top form for the cobblestones.
At Roubaix, Garmin-Cervélo played the perfect tactic by sending eventual winner Johan Van Summeren and putting then world champion Thor Hushovd on Cancellara’s wheel. The large Swiss rider later complained that he was so marked during the Hell of North that “if I stopped for coffee, everyone else would have as well.”
Cancellara admits that last year he was often isolated without many friendly Leopard-Trek jerseys during the key moments, but he wrote that off to bad crashes and illnesses that some of his teammates suffered.
Though he will still be one of the five-star favorites and equally marked as he was last year, it will be super-team BMC, with the arrival of Hushovd and Philippe Gilbert, that will be expected to dictate the tactics on the road.
Gilbert has marked Flanders on his calendar while Hushovd wants nothing less than to win Roubaix, so Cancellara knows that he can use BMC’s high expectations to his advantage. A resurgent Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), hot off victory at Qatar, should see another factor in the mix during the first two weeks of April.
“We will have a strong team for the classics. We will not be as strong as BMC, but we will play our cards. It’s not always the strongest who wins,” he said. “It was not easy to handle last year, when everyone was looking at you. I was happy with what I did. I gave 100 percent. I did not have the big win, but I was very consistent. I just missed that little bit of luck.”
Cancellara said he’s impressed with what RadioShack-Nissan-Trek will bring to the table for the northern classics. In addition to such stalwarts as Gregory Rast, fourth last year in Roubaix, Yaroslav Popovych and Hayden Roulston bring new firepower from RadioShack.
“All the classics riders are super motivated. The RadioShack side, they’re more motivated than ever. They never had a big leader for the classics before,” he said. “They usually rode for the grand tours and the Ardennes. Now we can work together for the northern classics. It gives me a big motivation to know I have their confidence.”
Cancellara already has high ambitions for 2012, namely looking to regain his place as the undisputed king of the time trials. Tony Martin knocked him off his pedestal last year, but Cancellara is confident he can regain his winning stride in time to defend his Olympic title in London later this summer.
But he takes even more motivation for the spring classics. He’s already won four monuments (two wins at Roubaix and one each at Flanders and San Remo) and he wants to add some hardware to his trophy case this year.
“I love the classics. They are real battles, real racing,” he said. “Time trials are also good, but it’s not the same as the northern classics. That’s pure bike racing.”