BOULOGNE-SUR-MER, France (AFP) — Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara produced another performance worthy of the yellow jersey holder on the third stage of the Tour de France Tuesday.
And despite expecting to lose the overall lead before the first big climbing test of the race this weekend, the RadioShack-Nissan rider believes his guardianship of the fabled tunic has boosted his Olympic hopes.
“I expect a lot from myself,” said Cancellara, who finished an impressive fourth on the uphill finish behind Slovak winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale). “I haven’t reached the peak of my condition.”
Four years ago in Beijing, Cancellara was almost unstoppable, winning time trial gold and road race silver. Prior to the Tour de France, however, 2012 has been a season to forget.
He crashed out of the Tour of Flanders, ending his classics season, and failed to win big elsewhere except for the national time trial crown.
The Swiss, who is not a yellow jersey contender, has held the lead since winning the prologue, a 6.4km time trial, on Saturday with a seven-second lead on overall favorite Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
And while he expects to lose it on Saturday’s seventh stage to the Planche des Belles Filles— “It’s too difficult for me,” said the Swiss — he is appreciating the training that protecting the lead has given him for his Olympic challenge.
“I’m going to improve a lot between now and the Games,” he added. “Being in the front all the time at the Tour gives me confidence. In this respect every day is important. When I no longer have the yellow jersey, I’ll turn my focus to something else to make sure I’m working on my form.”
Cancellara’s big rival for time trial gold in London is Germany’s Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), the man who succeeded him as world champion in 2011 after beating him in the final time trial of last year’s Tour de France. However, Martin’s chances of working as hard on his condition look compromised for the time being after he crashed on Sunday’s opening road stage and fractured the scaphoid bone in his left wrist. Martin has managed to come through two stages since and aims to be ready to challenge Cancellara in London.