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London to Doha: Cancellara back after dark period

Spartacus feels good about his chances in the spring, but says he'll need a lot of luck to win San Remo, Flanders or Roubaix

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DOHA (VN) — Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) is back in action after crashes derailed his 2012 season. He stumbled in the classics and Olympics, but “Spartacus” is hitting his stride this week at the Tour of Qatar.

The race marks his return from an absence that spanned from London to Doha, from the Olympics to the Tour of Qatar, six months in total.

“I feel good, back in the race,” Cancellara said in a small press gathering. “It’s not the easiest race back after last racing in August. Normally with the wind, it’s a dangerous race, but I like racing here, that’s why I decided on Qatar and Oman. The races are key to my season.”

Cancellara went through a corner too hot in the Olympic road race when part of the eventual winning move. Looking as though he survived a bad car crash, he stayed in London to defend his time trial title. Still sore, he was only able to manage seventh place.

Despite winning the prologue TT in the Tour de France in July and wearing the yellow jersey for seven days, London spoiled an already sour year.

In April, the 31-year-old Swiss crashed and, for the first time in his life, fractured a bone. Before the Ronde van Vlaanderen entered its final stages, Cancellara cracked his collarbone in a feedzone crash. It ruled him out of Paris-Roubaix and put him on the back foot in defending his Beijing time trial gold.

Cancellara favors the classics — he has won Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders and Roubaix, twice — and still suffers from the incident.

“It was difficult, to be honest. If I said it was easy, I’m not honest,” he said of 2012. “I had such good form for the classics, including the team, it was amazing. Yesterday night, I watched Flanders for the first time. It was a strange feeling seeing the race that I crashed out of. I finally saw it, the new parcours.”

He won the race in 2010, but last year was unable to race over the final circuits of the new parcours finishing in Oudenaarde, Belgium.

He joked, “I joined the broken collarbone club!” The time off, though, was hard for Cancellara. From August 1 until this the Tour of Qatar, six months, he did not pin on a race number.

RadioShack, meanwhile, was rocked by the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency opened a case against the team’s general manager, Johan Bruyneel, forcing the team to cut its ties. The Luxembourg-based team promoted Luca Guercilena to GM.

Rumors spread that Cancellara was unhappy and would leave.

“It was hard. I wouldn’t say I was sitting in a corner, that I was down, but what I needed was time,” Cancellara said. “I’ve learnt to deal with that when people close to me have died. It’s hard, you have to go through it and try to feel the positives. I lost something, maybe the two biggest opportunities in my whole life, to win two big races and make history. But you are able to put it all on the table and see the positives and negatives. I tried to turn around the negative and get the positive out.”

He races in Qatar and Oman over the next two weeks. Back in Europe, he will make his usual approach the big monuments via Strade Bianche and the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in Italy.

“I see how it’s going now, my condition, and I have a bit of confidence. I was away a lot, but I feel I have a good level already,” said Cancellara. “I have three possibilities: San Remo, Flanders and Roubaix. Not one of them is easy. I’ll need a lot of luck.”

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