BERN, Switzerland (VN) — Swiss classics and time trial champion Fabian Cancellara says goodbye Monday at home with the 2016 Tour de France’s visit to Bern, Switzerland.
The 35-year-old is retiring at the end of 2016 and has goals remaining, like the Olympics, but this is his last Tour and a special one, with Monday’s stage finishing just three miles from his home. The race stops for its second rest day Tuesday in Bern and continues Wednesday, with the start of the 17th stage there.
“I’ve been looking forward to this,” Cancellara said before climbing onto a special white team Trek – Segafredo bike painted with his “Spartacus” nickname.
“It’s special to have the Tour come to your hometown, and for the first time ever in Bern. It’s a lifetime experience, but I’m going to try to be as relaxed as possible.”
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He has worn the Tour’s famous yellow jersey for a total of 29 days. The first time was in the 2004 Tour which began in Liège, Belgium. He won eight stages over the years racing with Mapei, Fassa Bortolo, Saxo Bank, Leopard, and now Trek – Segafredo. Cancellara’s last Tour glory came last year, when he took the overall lead via bonus seconds in stage 2. The next stage, however, a crash forced him to abandon the race.
“This is going to be an emotional day because I have my own expectation and that expectation from others, but I think that’s normal,” Cancellara said.
The season has been full of goodbyes for Cancellara, starting with the classics. Overall, he’s won Milano-Sanremo once and has three victories at both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
A fairytale ending may not be possible, with others favored for Monday’s 209-kilometer course over the French border into Switzerland. Trek also needs to think of Dutchman Bauke Mollema, who sits second overall behind race leader Chris Froome of Sky.
“It would be magical to win, but we can’t think that it’s possible because we are here for Mollema,” Trek sport director Kim Anderson said. “We won’t control the race just for Cancellara.”
Added Cancellara: “I know all the last kilometers blind. It’s not just a criterium race that finishes in the city, it’s the Tour, so it’s going to be a big race for sure.”
Win or not, Cancellara will still celebrate with the Bern locals.
“Finishing in Bern for him everything, he said the reason why he is riding this Tour is because of the stages in Bern,” added Swiss teammate Gregory Rast. “That says everything. The finish line is maybe 10 minutes from his home, for sure, it’s special.
“[BMC Racing team owner] Andy Rihs started with the idea. The Mayor of Bern really likes cycling, that’s why the Tour de Suisse is there always. It’s a goodbye to Bern and cycling, but he still has big goals with the Olympics and so on. It doesn’t stop here in Bern.”