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By Andrew Hood
When there’s a race against the clock, Fabian Cancellara is usually the man to beat.
But the reigning Olympic time trial champion just laughed when asked by VeloNews if he was a favorite for Thursday’s climb-heavy race against the clock along the Cinque Terre coast.
“No, it’s a crazy course. I won the Olympics, but what we have on the map tomorrow is crazy,” the Saxo Bank rider said. “This is more like a cyclo-tourist event. It’s pretty from Sestri Levante to Cinque Terre, it’s nice for the show, but I think a time trial of 1 hour, 40 minutes is a bit crazy.”
Anticipation has been building among the GC contenders for Thursday’s showdown on the Italian Riviera, but the challenging profile — which features 24.6km of climbing on the 60.6km course — takes the pure time trial specialists out of contention.
Cancellara — who owns two rainbow jerseys among his collection of time trial trophies — admitted the jagged profile will all but eliminate his chances of victory.
“It’s not a normal time trial. This is a climbing course. There’s 15km and then 8km of climbing at 6-7 percent,” Cancellara said with a shrug. “You cannot ride a time trial bike. The position and the braking is harder. There’s the uphill, but then the downhills are crazy, small roads. It’s the Giro. It’s like this.”
The big Swiss time machine also told VeloNews he likely won’t be around to contest the final time trial in Rome when the Giro ends on May 31, on a technical, flat course that’s perfectly suited to his strengths.
“I have the same philosophy since that start, taking it day by day,” he said. “I am not coming to this race like the others, who are here with a bit of training. I suffered the first three or four days. Now I feel better and stronger, that’s a good sign.”
Like many top riders, the Giro is the ideal platform to build his condition ahead of the Tour de France, where he promises to be back at his best in time for the prestigious opening time trial in Monaco.
“I need racing miles. I haven’t done a stage race longer than five days since I started this season,” he said. “I need race kilometers — that’s why I came to the Giro. I want to get better condition. The progress is good.”
Cancellara is expected to make an early exit from the Giro and then reload for the Tour de Swiss in June, where he will be welcomed as a conquering hero following his two-medal haul last summer at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games.
Most important for Cancellara is regaining the form that helped him dominate the Olympic Games and put behind him his frustrating spring campaign that saw him beset with health problems and poor form.
“It was not easy for me in the spring,” he said. “I had this situation, I couldn’t change anything. I am not a machine. I have to be patient.”