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Fabian Cancellara was forced to settle for second...

Why didn’t Cancellara follow?

Having missed the decisive move Sunday, Fabian Cancellara was unable to deliver a record-breaking fourth career Tour of Flanders victory

OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Why didn’t Fabian Cancellara follow? That question will haunt the Trek – Segafredo superstar for a long time.

Cancellara did not cover the decisive attack at Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), when Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) and eventual winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) powered away. Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) bridged across, but Cancellara decided to wait, and it cost him a chance to script the perfect farewell in his final Flanders.

“I missed this key moment when Sagan went with Kwiatkowski,” Cancellara said. “I did the maximum today, but I just missed this one second. Sep was the last one to close that gap. [Why not go?] Ask me tomorrow. I do not even know why right now.”

Cancellara’s waffling came with just over 30km to go, with the main pack regrouping after coming over the Taaienberg. E3-Harelbeke winner Kwiatkowski powered away, and E3-Harelbeke runner-up Sagan was glued on his wheel. Vanmarcke sensed something was up, and dug deep to bridge across.

“Kwiatkowski attacked, and he’s smart like that, and I was lucky I was on his wheel,” Sagan said. “It was a surprise for everybody I think.”

Cancellara was in position to follow, but hesitated. Why? He seemed to suggest the numbers were not adding up, but he couldn’t hide his regret at the finish line.

“I am not happy. I race for winning. I knew there were still others in the bunch, with many Sky and Etixx riders. They also wanted to win. I don’t want to say it was too early,” Cancellara said. “It was the right moment for Peter, and I tried to manage to come back on the Kwaremont and Paterberg. I had to chase, and the chase is not always nice. I could manage to come to Sep, and we did the maximum to be there. Peter was just too strong.”

Instead of finding collaboration with other teams, especially Etixx—Quick-Step or Katusha, Cancellara tried in vain to bridge across alone. He attacked up the Oude Kwaremont, and then again on the Paterberg, eventually linking up with Vanmarcke, who was dropped by Sagan on the final climb.

Veteran Trek sport director Dirk Demol admitted Cancellara made the wrong call by not following.

“When Sagan and Kwiatkowski go, if you have good legs at that point, you should go with them,” Demol said. “Fabian is not often making a mistake, but that was probably a mistake that he didn’t try to go with them. We saw at Harelbeke, that these two guys are strong. You have to be there.”

Sunday’s Ronde was billed as a showdown between Cancellara and Sagan, the two strongest riders coming into the Belgian monument. Sagan took matters into his own hands, eventually attacking Vanmarcke on the Paterberg to solo home alone to become the first world champion since Tom Boonen in 2006 to win Flanders.

“We know Sagan was strong. He was super Sagan today,” Demol said. “When he had 20 seconds at the bottom of the Paterberg, the race is over. Fabian is an honest rider, and he realized that Sagan was super strong today. The mistake was the moment they went, but he was fighting back on the Kwaremont. Chapeaux to Fabian to fight like this in his last year.”