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Cancellara in search of missing worlds gem

"Spartacus" isn't saying much about the road race this week, but is treasure hunting in Florence

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Fabian Cancellara continues hunting for a few missing gems for his chest, including the world road title, but is keeping a low profile ahead of Sunday’s elite men’s road race in Florence. The Swiss, already the owner of four time trial titles, an Olympic gold, and several one-day classics, will try to add the rainbow jersey to his collection in Tuscany.

“The effort and the bronze medal in the time trial today will give him what he needs for Sunday,” Swiss coach and RadioShack-Leopard general manager Luca Guercilena told VeloNews. “He needed to go deep one last time for the road race.”

Tony Martin (Germany) won the worlds time trial on Wednesday. Cancellara lost a close, two-second fight with Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) for silver. Some, however, say that his big goal for the week is the road race.

“Have you seen how lean he is?” said Italian coach Paolo Bettini. “He’s going for the road race.”

The 32-year-old Swiss captain came close at the 2009 worlds in Mendrisio, Switzerland. He won the time trial gold and, three days later, he attacked multiple times and finished fifth in the road race. He won the time trial again the next year in Geelong, but Martin has dominated against the clock since.

With two Flanders/Roubaix doubles and a Milano-Sanremo win to his name, Cancellara has said in the past that he wanted to fill the missing spots in his palmares. He talked of classics like Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the hour record. For now, the worlds road race is goal No. 1, but Cancellara isn’t talking about it.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Cancellara said Wednesday after collecting his bronze medal. “Everyone wants to know about Sunday — how I feel, how I go and how I look. … There’s no way I give that information to you. I just want to enjoy my medal right now.”

He did add that the bronze-medal performance might help. “This satisfaction can push me and maybe motivate me for Sunday, more than that, I won’t say more on Sunday,” he said.

Cancellara took a comeback victory of sorts in the Vuelta a España when he won the time trial ahead Martin. However, Martin proved that the time trial crown remains firmly on his head Wednesday. The German shouldn’t factor on Sunday, however, when the elite men take to the two climbs featuring on each of 10 finishing circuits around Florence.

“Given what everyone was saying, he came away with a good result. He led Martin through the first time checks. We are OK for Sunday. I’m confident,” Guercilena said. “The effort hasn’t been too much for him. In the week that you are going to try for the road race, you need to go deep. This is the best way to go deep. You can imagine that his road race rivals, like Peter Sagan, are out training hard today.”

Sunday’s 172-kilometer road race travels a mostly flat route through Tuscany from Lucca to Florence. The circuits in Florence are a completely different matter. Each of the 10 laps covers the 4.37km climb to Fiesole and goes over the 10-percent, 600-meter Via Salviati. It could suit grand tour riders like Chris Froome (Great Britain) or puncheurs like Peter Sagan (Slovakia). And Cancellara?

“The Beijing Olympic road race was hard, too. I was there [second behind winner Samuel Sánchez],” Cancellara told Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport last week. “Everyone talks about Via Salviati. It’s going to be hard, but it’ll only be a 90-second, all-out effort.”

Cancellara’s confidence calls back to his dominant spring campaign. Before a midseason break aimed at arriving fresh to the world championships, his violent efforts won him three big one-day races in E3 Harelbeke, Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Roubaix. In the latter two, those attacks left Sagan to ride for second. “Spartacus” isn’t saying much now, but the oddsmakers’ favorite for Sunday could be on the verge of adding another gem to his chest.