By Andrew Hood
Fabian Cancellara won’t be defending his Milan-San Remo title on Saturday and admits that he likely won’t be back at his best in time for the northern classics.
A training crash and illness have derailed Cancellara’s hopes of repeating his extraordinary spring campaign last year that saw him win Monte Paschi, Tirreno-Adriatico and San Remo and claim second in Paris-Roubaix.
Cancellara told VeloNews his spring campaign is all but a wash this year.
“The condition won’t be like people are used to seeing from Cancellara. I am not a machine,” he said. “I don’t think I will be top this year for the classics, but maybe I can get good recovery and be ready for the races.”
Saxo Bank took Cancellara off its nine-man roster for San Remo as the Olympic time trial champion continues to struggle to regain his winning form.
Troubles started for Cancellara at the Tour of California, where he won the opening prologue despite starting sick. He quickly abandoned the race and returned to Switzerland.
He then injured his shoulder in a training accident that forced him off the bike for nearly three weeks during a critical training period.
“It was just a stupid crash at low speed. It still hurts a lot,” Cancellara explained. “It’s on the bone inside the shoulder blade. It’s swollen up and when I was trying to ride, my shoulder hurt. It was impossible to ride for two-and-a-half weeks.”
Cancellara didn’t defend his title at Monte Paschi on March 7 and the team put him into the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico with the hopes of racing him back toward full strength.
Things didn’t go well. Cancellara was struggling with some nasal problems and was sitting uncharacteristically in last place after four stages.
It was odd to see the two-time world time trial champion starting first as the last-placed rider.
“That was a bit different, to see the Olympic champion, the double world champion, starting first in a time trial, that doesn’t happen often!” he said. “I was sick, then I crashed, and now I have sinus problems. That’s what happens when you use your body hard without any training.”
Cancellara later abandoned in the long climbing stage and then decided to skip the longer, one-day distance of Milan-San Remo. Instead, he will race at Coppi e Bartali (March 24-28).
The team is still hopeful Cancellara can be in shape for Tour of Flanders (April 5) and Paris-Roubaix (April 12).
“We need to be realistic about his current shape and thus take things step by step. The race next week is perfect for him to re-enter the racing program and, in that way, he definitely still has a realistic chance to play an important role in the Classics up north,” said Saxo Bank owner Bjarne Riis. “The most important thing right now is that he gets a fair chance to work and get into shape and once that is in place, I’m sure he will be back with his usual class.”
Cancellara remains philosophical about his recovery. Even if he cannot be at his best during the spring classics, he knows there’s plenty of racing left.
“I know my situation. I can’t change anything. I am still a human being,” he said. “It’s planned that I will race the Giro. OK, that’s the plan, maybe plans will change. We will stick to it now, but when you have such bad luck, you hope to get back the luck and win again.”