Fabian Cancellara needs little introduction: Three victories at both Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders, four world time trial titles, two Olympic golds, a legendary rivalry with Tom Boonen, and so much more.
With only Boonen and Roger De Vlaeminck topping him for Roubaix trophies, “Spartacus” was top of the list of riders to talk to when news broke at the start of this month that Paris-Roubaix was to be rescheduled. When I first reached out to the Swiss great ten days ago, I received no response, felt a little sad, and moved on.
Then Friday, just as I was sat finishing my lunch, I got the most unexpected of phone calls – Cancellara was out on a bike ride and remembered to ring me back. Still an avid fan of the sport, the 40-year-old downloaded his thoughts on all-things classics as he pedaled through the Swiss lanes.
- Paris-Roubaix postponed until October 2-3 due to COVID-19
- Fred Dreier’s nine favorite Cancellara moments
Here’s part one 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.
— Fabian Cancellara (@f_cancellara) April 8, 2018
VeloNews: What was your reaction when you heard that this year’s Paris-Roubaix was postponed?
Fabian Cancellara: On the one side of course, health first, and safety first. That always comes first. Of course it will be back later we hope, but it’s sad it comes now. Think of how exciting the last races have been – it’s been years since we’ve seen something like this. We’ve seen such battles from such strong riders, thinking one is unbeatable then another wins and things. From Strade Bianche until Flanders we’ve seen all variations of races with battles, dramas, amazing performances, with long escapes at the front alone, people out the back. And then the youngsters, with new names and different names. Like everyone was talking about Mathieu and then bang, Asgreen won Flanders. It’s been really nice to watch and Roubaix would have been special.
VN: You mention Kasper Asgreen, who won the Tour of Flanders. He said that he always looked up to you as a similar type of rider. How did it feel to watch him win?
FC: Alaphilippe was for sure the target for the team, but Asgreen was like their second one in my opinion. He had the best cards on the table, the condition, and he deserved it. I feel honored that I’ve inspired a guy like him. It’s a huge compliment and means that I’ve done something right. It feels really nice when I hear on interviews that guys that are winning Flanders or world titles [refering to Filippo Ganna, nicknamed ‘mini Spartacus’]. With Kasper Asgreen, I had him on the phone after he won Harelbeke to congratulate him on that amazing win and we talked. He said, ‘I saw the way you used to escape and do long, long kilometers alone,’ and this and that. It’s lovely to see these young riders and hear how they’ve seen me. And now I like to congratulate them for their amazing wins. It’s super cool that you can share these things without any ego or whatever – for me to say congratulations, even if it’s just by text message or Instagram message or whatever. I don’t do it with everyone but it’s just a spontaneous thing, especially if they mention me as a role model or something.
VN: Asgreen could have been a top contender at Roubaix on Sunday. You’ve won both Roubaix and Flanders three times. Did you prefer one over the other?
FC: For me personally, I preferred Flanders because it’s the most diverse race. With Flanders, the region, it’s so hard. The left and the right, the up and the down, the weather, wind, the circumstances of the uphill cobbles, uphill normal asphalt, you have to be really aware of tactics. And the equipment is also an important part of it, not as much as Roubaix, but it’s a lot. And you have rough cobbles, easy cobbles, it’s all mixed in. Of course, Roubaix is special because of those crazy cobbles but in the end, it’s just flat. It’s another way of tactic to race Roubaix, but for me, Flanders is more diverse, it’s made for all sorts of riders – like Strade Bianche. I don’t know if of any other single one day race you have such a diverse range of riders in one single bike race in one single day besides maybe the world championships.
Stay tuned Sunday and Monday for Cancellara discussing “his greatest” Roubaix win, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, and a lot more.