MILAN (VN) — Fabian Cancellara raised his arms high in Siena’s famous Piazza del Campo to celebrate not only his Strade Bianche victory, but the makings of his final chapter. The Swiss classics and time trial specialist says that no matter what, this 2016 season will be his last in cycling.
Cancellara conquered the gravel road race in through Siena’s countryside a third time Saturday and now will leave his mark — cycling director at RCS Sport, Mauro Vegni told VeloNews that the race will begin naming the white gravel sectors after its three-time winners. Cancellara is the first.
This win, however, is part of his last chapter. The Trek – Segafredo rider — who counts four time trial world titles and three wins each in Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix — will retire after 16 seasons this year. And there is no stopping him.
“I could easily continue for more years, but that’s not what I want to do,” Cancellara said in a post-race press conference.
“I’ve raced 16 years, and as I’ve always said, this is the last year. There won’t be another decision whatever happens, no hour record, no world championships.”
And given he is writing the final chapter of his cycling career, Cancellara feels that he has a fair amount of freedom in racing. This year, he will only participate if he can win or if he can help others win. He explained that he is not lining up just to make the numbers.
That freedom worked in the 34-year-old’s favor Saturday when the race reached its last gravel sectors. Cancellara followed world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and rode clear with Etixx – Quick-Step teammates Zdenek Stybar and Gianluca Brambilla.
“Everything that comes is an extra. I race freely, I race with my freedom,” Cancellara said. “I just push my teammates, I push everybody around because they know what to expect when I’m riding well. So I have nothing to lose.
“I just enjoy my cycling; I just enjoy my last season. I won almost everything, so everything now is just a huge bonus. The season really has started with the Strade Bianche win.”
The win suited Cancellara well, but also organizer RCS Sport. It welcomed big names like Cancellara and Sagan, who fought for the 10th edition of its race. With those stars present, RCS has a compelling argument as it asks the UCI to give its race WorldTour status in the 2017 season.
Cancellara’s 2016 continues with the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, beginning Wednesday. In 2015, he won the final time trial. The race will ready him for the big one-day races to follow over the next month: Milano-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Paris-Roubaix. If Cancellara wins Flanders this year, he would be the first cyclist to do so four times.
Earning naming rights to a white gravel road in Siena’s countryside is just one of the champion’s perks — there are other small trophies in his final chapter. “At the start of the season, I made a bet with the president [Massimo Zanetti of coffee giant Segafredo], for every victory this year, he has to give me a 1.5-liter bottle of Sassicaia wine. And we are already at three for the year!”