Every race Fabian Cancellara starts this season will be special, because it will be his last. The Swiss superstar is winding down his career, and promises to go out on top. Saturday’s Strade Bianche will see the Trek – Segafredo leader racing over the gravel roads of Tuscany for the last time.
Longtime teammate Fränk Schleck has had a front-row seat to some of Cancellara’s biggest exploits and said it will be hard for the peloton to replace the 34-year-old when he retires at the end of 2016.
“Fabian is the golden child,” Schleck told VeloNews. “There are not many races he hasn’t won, or hasn’t left his footprints on. He is special. I am proud to be with him on this team, and we’ve gone through a lot together. Fabian is a good guy. I love him. He is golden.”
Schleck and Cancellara have been through the trenches together, and became teammates when Cancellara joined CSC in 2006. They’ve raced together ever since, riding through successes and disappointments at the Tour de France and other races throughout the year.
“He is the one that I know most as a friend, and he is one of the most talented bike riders I have ever seen,” Schleck said. “The way he transforms his training into shape, I have never seen it before. He can go out in three hours, and he can ride himself into shape. That is true talent.”
By his own admission, however, Schleck said he and Cancellara rarely raced together. With Cancellara focused on the northern classics and Schleck on the Ardennes, their racing schedules typically only intersected during the Tour de France, but he’s spent enough time with him to know what sets Cancellara apart. For Schleck, there are few in the peloton as talented and blessed by the cycling gods as his Swiss teammate.
“The way he pedals, the way he turns the legs. Even with his weight, the speed he has in the pedals, that’s why he has the power,” Schleck said. “He is so reliable. He is so powerful. When he says, ‘I am going to be ready,’ you can bet he will be. He has a super image, and people love him. He made the decision to stop, and you have to respect that. He is the only one who can decide that. He is a big champion.”
With that winning attitude comes some quirks. Schleck said Cancellara is unlike other riders when it comes to his strong personality.
“He is a special character. He is very loud. He needs a lot of attention. He is a drama queen. He is a diva. He needs his special things,” he said.
“How is he like a diva? He would be covered in dirt and mud and shit after winning Roubaix, and he would be in the shower, and yell out that the towels were not soft enough. It’s true!”
If you win as much as Cancellara, perhaps a little touch of a diva is justified. Schleck seemed to think so as he laughed while recounting his memories of Spartacus.