Cancellara — who’s won every world title since 2006 (he skipped on a title defense in 2008) — said his German rival was simply too strong to beat.
Related: Full results with splits (.pdf)
“Tony is the worthy winner today, he deserved it more than anyone else,” said Cancellara, who took bronze. “I started with good feelings, but I couldn’t find a rhythm.”
Martin, starting second-to-last just 1:30 ahead of Cancellara, took control of the two-lap, 46.4km flat, technical course early, setting the fastest splits to win in 53:43.85 (51.813kph/32.195mph).
Cancellara couldn’t match his German rival, and was losing a second per kilometer over the early pacing of the race. He was nearly 10 seconds off Martin’s blistering pace at 10km and stopped the clock at 1:20.59 slower than Martin, at 1kph-per-kilometer slower at 50.379kph.
“I felt good in training and after the Vuelta, but today is not about training or your power numbers, it’s about the race,” Cancellara said. “Maybe mentally I cracked a little bit, maybe that happens when you’re not 100 percent. I gave the maximum, but that’s how it is.”
Martin’s victory is the third this season against Cancellara in major time-trial showdowns.
Martin beat Cancellara at the Tour de France for the first time in July and knocked him back again at the Vuelta.
Martin’s victory also puts an end to Cancellara’s international time trial streak. Dating back to 2006, Cancellara won four of the world titles he started and also won the 2008 Olympic gold medal in Beijing.
“It was not my perfect day. We are not machines,” Cancellara said. “When you’re not 100 percent, you do not deserve a win. Cycling would be too easy.”
Things haven’t been so easy for Cancellara this season. After his high-profile switch from Saxo Bank to Leopard-Trek for 2011, he was under tremendous pressure as the favorite for the spring classics.
Though he powered to victory at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and finished second at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix and third at the Tour of Flanders, that wasn’t enough for some pundits.
Cancellara admitted that he was under pressure throughout the season to deliver knock-out results.
“I had a lot of good, bad, beautiful things, but cycling is always the same, it’s the hard work, not going to have every year the same. Personally, in my opinion, it’s impossible,” he said. “When I look at the spring, I had amazing results, then you look at the winners. It’s how many ‘number-ones’ you have on your palmares that counts. Not the beautiful things you do for the the team or how many times second.”
Cancellara buried himself to help the Schleck brothers during the Tour de France, an effort he said that likely cost him his full strength for the final Tour time trial in Grenoble.
Cancellara also admitted that merger plans between Leoard-Trek and RadioShack have taken their toll.
Cancellara confirmed to VeloNews that he has a valid contract for next season with Leopard-Trek, but admitted that the uncertainty around the future of the team doesn’t make it any easier.
“I have a contract, and I am with Leopard, and Leopard is continuing,” Cancellara said. “For me, I just went home after the Vuelta and just focused on these two races. I haven’t looked left or right, I have to focus on this race. With all that’s going on, maybe I (could have stayed) home. That’s not my case. For me, it’s focusing 100 percent, also on Sunday, the rest we’ll see later. (The worlds) is one of the main goals of the year. I like the challenge and I like the medals.”
Cancellara says he’s now turning his attention to Sunday’s road race.
“Now you have to look forward to Sunday,” he said about the elite men’s road race. “You’re not going to lose condition from one day to the next. I trained more than for the other years. I hope to have a good result, but I also hoped to win today.”
That’s one rainbow jersey that he still does not own. A strong ride Sunday could erase all the disappointment Cancellara endured this season.