BELORADO, Spain (VN) — Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) has plenty of rainbow jerseys; four, in fact, all of them in the individual time trial.
This year, he’s bypassing on what’s almost a sure bet of hitting the podium yet again in the time trial, and going all-in for a shot at striking gold on the road.
Cancellara deferred at speaking to the media Friday morning before the start of stage 13 at the Vuelta a España, but the Swiss cycling federation confirmed that the 33-year-old will not race the TT in the Ponferrada worlds later this month.
Cancellara’s name did not appear in a pre-worlds start list released Thursday by Swiss officials, meaning that “Spartacus” will be focusing entirely and solely on the elite men’s road race.
“Fabian wants to be 100 percent for the road race,” said Trek team spokesman Tim Vanderjeugd. “You can never truly recover after a hard effort in the time trial Thursday for the road race on Sunday.”
The decision not to race the time trial worlds marks an end of an era for Cancellara, who was once untouchable against the clock, winning four world titles from 2006 through 2010.
Not counting 2008, when he skipped the worlds after striking Olympic gold, it will be the first time Cancellara’s missed the world TT race since turning pro in 2001.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) has since emerged as the new man to beat in the race of truth. The German has won three titles, and will be hunting for a record fourth consecutive world crown in Ponferrada on September 21.
Cancellara’s decision reveals just how much he is focused on the road title, because he was second to rival Martin in Tuesday’s time trial at the Vuelta a Espana (he was later penalized by seven seconds for alleged drafting and was bumped to third). Cancellara would have been all but assured of a place on the worlds podium, and perhaps a fifth world title if he had a great ride, but it’s the road title that is proving more seductive.
Cancellara admitted earlier this season that it’s only cycling’s major events that truly inspire him anymore.
“I have said many times I would like to win that rainbow jersey,” Cancellara said in an interview earlier this year. “I have been close a few times, but I have not had the luck. This year I will try again.”
Already last year, Cancellara was on the bubble about racing the world time trial race. He was included on the preliminary startlist, and took a late-hour decision to race, when he was third behind Martin and Bradley Wiggins (Sky), missing silver by just two seconds.
Cancellara later rode to 10th in the elite men’s road race in Tuscany on a course that favored his style of riding, a bittersweet experience that certainly helped him tilt toward skipping the time trial this year and going into the road race as fresh as possible.
Cancellara is using the Vuelta as preparation for the worlds, and is expected to ride into the third week, though it’s not certain if he will finish the Vuelta. Many worlds-bound riders pull the plug on the Vuelta when they feel they’ve gotten all they can out of the race.
Cancellara is among a pack of worlds favorites racing the Vuelta as part of their preparation for Ponferrada. Others, such as Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma), and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), are all using the Vuelta to sharpen their form ahead of the hilly, puncheur-style route waiting in Ponferrada.
For Cancellara, the rainbow jersey would cap his hugely successful career that has included every major milestone in cycling. He’s won Olympic medals, yellow jerseys, grand tour stages, and seven “monuments.”
A rainbow jersey from the road is all that’s missing from his stellar palmares.
Fresh and hungry for the road race, without the burden of the time trial, this could be Cancellara’s best, and last chance, to win.