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Cancellara: Race the classics first, talk retirement later

The Swiss rider says his current focus is the upcoming classics season

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) will aim at a record fourth Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) win and other spring classics before deciding his future.

“I’m happy. I’m enjoying myself and trying to reach 100 percent in less than two months’ time,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing.”

The 33-year-old has been racing over the flat and often windy countryside in the Tour of Qatar this week to prepare for the monuments ahead. After the fourth stage and a shower, his hair gelled back and beard closely trimmed, he met with a handful of international journalists.

Cancellara clarified his schedule. After Oman, he will race in Italy — Strade Bianche, the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, and Milano-Sanremo — and in northern Europe — E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix.

He wants to rectify an unsatisfying 2014 season in which he only won the Ronde and left him wanting more.

“I wasn’t happy. I’m not complaining, but I haven’t won enough,” Cancellara said of 2014. “That’s my high level. And in the classics, there were a few things that weren’t right.”

Cancellara rode at the highest level in the 2008, 2011, 2013 seasons. In 2008, he won Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, and took a gold medal in the Olympic time trial and a bronze in the road race. In both 2011 and 2013, he won the Ronde and, one week later, Paris-Roubaix.

He explained that one scenario could be that he pulls the brakes on his career after another big win. The big ones for “Spartacus” are the Monuments Milano-Sanremo (March 22), the Tour of Flanders (April 5), and Paris-Roubaix (April 12).

If he won Flanders a fourth time, he would be the first cyclist to do so. Now, he is tied with five others — including Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick-Step) — at three wins.

“The record is more interesting than winning again,” he said. “I’ve done other historical things, but I can’t always win like last year.”

Cancellara has won eight stages in the Tour de France and a record four time trial titles at the world championships. However, he would not confirm his plans past Paris-Roubaix.

“The first goals are the classics. After that … I want to take a break and settle up for the rest of the season. We have a worlds coming, but that’s still far and it’s in the US. Many things can happen before then.”

Cancellara had been planning for the hour record before the UCI changed the rules in May 2014 to allow pursuit bikes instead of normal road frames.

The rainbow jersey from the worlds road race remains one missing jewel in Cancellara’s chest. He changed his focus from time trials to the road race, but has yet to win, placing fourth and fifth so far.

He could race in the Richmond, Virginia worlds this year or in Doha next year, or he could just decide to say goodbye to the peloton after winning a monument.

“It could be [a possible scenario]. It could be, yeah,” Cancellara said. “It’s my decision.”