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The Spartacus Papers: Fabian Cancellara on his greatest Paris-Roubaix victory, his kudos for Peter Sagan

In part two of a three-part series, Cancellara discusses going 'full gladiator' in the 2013 Paris-Roubaix and how Peter Sagan loves to 'kick asses.'

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Fabian Cancellara loves talking about classics almost as much as he loved winning them.

With three victories at each of Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders and E3 Harelbeke, it made a lot of sense to give the Swiss veteran a call in the wake of last week’s news that the April “Hell of the North” was to be postponed.

We caught up Friday as “Spartacus,” now in his fifth year of retirement, went out riding in the Swiss hills. Still an avid fan of the sport, the 40-year-old downloaded his thoughts on all-things Roubaix, the classics, and the modern generation of classics stars.

Here’s part two of three of “The Spartacus Papers,” perfectly timed for the weekend that should have hosted both the men’s and inaugural women’s Paris-Roubaix.

VeloNews: You won Paris-Roubaix three times, in 2006, ’10 and ’13. Each victory was quite different, does any one stand out for you?

Fabian Cancellara: I remember them all so well. But the most momentous were the last two, especially the very last in ’13 [beating Sep Vanmarcke in a sprint on the velodrome]. That was the toughest because it was everyone against me, and I just had to battle against everyone else in the race. It was the toughest one, but also mentally it was so tough because if you have the whole bunch against you and you get isolated and you just have to defend yourself against the others, just being the full gladiator Spartacus to rumble that thing. That was the toughest to win, but 2010, doing a 50km solo, that’s really special but it’s different because it just came out on a non-planned occasion. We thought in the race it might be the best move and after the race it turned out it was the best. I just went because the circumstances came, I had no clue when I went what all the others were thinking. So in that moment I just went, and didn’t think and pushed the pedals to the finish.

Also read: All eyes on Cancellara for 2013 Roubaix

VN: Peter Sagan took second place when you won Flanders and E3 Harelbeke in 2013, and you went on to share the podium with him at many races. Sagan has had a lot of attention recently with his illness and speculation over his contract. What are your thoughts on his future?

FC: We had some really nice battles, at Flanders, Strade Bianche, the Tour … He’s a great rider, and you can see Peter still has it. I just think maybe he needs some luck. Peter is a guy that needs to be free in the head, to really go to races and have fun. Because Peter is a guy that wants to have fun but in a good way. He wants to go races to win and to kick some asses. I don’t know if he might need a change of environment, to start from zero again to find the balance, and to find new fire and stimulation. But you cannot point at him, at Sanremo he was right there with good condition even after the COVID he had, and I give him respect for that. I don’t give up on Peter because I think he still has possibilities. Look at [Mark] Cavendish, he finished third the other day at Scheldeprijs, so you know, if you get new fire, you can come back. And sometimes riders just need to take a break – look now at [Tom] Dumoulin or [Philippe] Gilbert. It’s important sometimes to have a break because sometimes breaks help you create new fire and you come back stronger.

Also read: Cancellara vs. Sagan: Master and pupil at opposite ends of their careers

Stay tuned Monday for Cancellara’s takes on why Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert may have been the makers of their own undoing in this year’s classics.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.