Cancellara on Milan-San Remo and the pressure to perform

MILAN, Italy (VN) – Fabian Cancellara says he is carefree headed into Milan-San Remo on Saturday, one day after he turns 30.

2008 Milan-San Remo: Fabian Cancellara
Cancellara stunned them in 2008. It's harder to do that now.

MILAN, Italy (VN) – Fabian Cancellara says he is carefree headed into Milan-San Remo on Saturday, one day after he turns 30. The 2008 winner of La Classica di Primavera said earlier this week that with so many changes in the off season and his eyes locked on the cobbled classics in April, he’ll click into his pedals in Milan with no stress.

The current world time trial champion also said that the three-headed Garmin-Cervélo monster of Thor Hushovd, Heinrich Haussler and Tyler Farrar could be a grand experiment. Or a disaster.

“It could be an advantage or negative,” he said of Garmin’s stacked classics roster. “I know Thor wants to win. Hey, world champion, he has ambition for these races. For them it’s difficult because are they going to follow the lines of the team tactics? Follow what was planned?”

Cancellara said that his season starts in earnest on Saturday in Milan.

“San Remo is 300 km. It’s like a bottle of champagne. Everyone is waiting,” he said as he shook an imaginary bottle of bubbly, a motion he knows well. “You have a long, long day, but in the end, 7.5 hours comes fast.”

Cancellara admits to arriving to Milan last spring without his mind fully keyed into the season’s first monument. In the end, he finished in the front group, but factored little in the finale. According to Cancellara, that result — and what he called mistakes in how he worked against teammate Matti Breschel — prepared his mind for the northern classics, where he did the Flanders/Roubaix double. A year later, he said he is after a top result on the Mediterranean.

“For sure I have ambitions for San Remo. San Remo I have won,” he said. “Three, four years ago, winning these races was easier. A little underdog, in good condition with little pressure can go through more easier. Now when I move maybe the whole peloton says, ‘Guys, we need to move.’ But that’s normal. As high as your palmarés is, the bigger the people watch and target you.”

Milan-San Remo is the sprinters’ classic, but Cancellara hasn’t shied away from the sharp end on days like these in the past. He’s a past San Remo champ and famously stole the show in Compiegne, France, when he attacked late to win stage 3 of the 2007 Tour de France.

With those palmarés alone comes pressure. Add two Paris-Roubaix titles, a run of grand tour stage wins and leaders jerseys and a handful of world championship and Olympic medals and the weight gets heavy.

“For sure I have big pressure,” said Cancellara. “That’s normal. I’m used to having big pressure. Also with my palmarés it’s normal to have expectations from the team, normal to have expectations from outside; it’s big, it’s normal as a high athlete like that, but I have my own expectations.”

Cancellara expected to go well into San Remo when he met a selection of press Monday night before his final-stage time trial win at Tirreno-Adriatico.

“In the end you get measured by victories, by results,” he said. “We will see in the races, but for the moment, I am pretty confident.”

Cancellara on his rivals

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
“Results, they say everything. Gilbert is riding super strong on hard days.”

Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
“Freire, he will be up there. I can give you a signature here. He will be there.”

Nick Nuyens
“Nick Nuyens I think is back.”

Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank)
“Langeveld is riding really, really strong.”

Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky)
“Sky looks a bit weaker because they lost Hagen. Flecha will be up there even if he was not super good (at Tirreno-Adriatico).”

“I think that’s something new for cycling, to have three top riders there… They have the world champion, you have Tyler (Farrar) who’s going awful good. Then you have Kleier, Hammond, they are also good.”

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) and Tom Boonen (Quick-Step)
“You don’t need to do results to be there in the front… In the end, everyone is trying to do what the best is for him. You can’t say only Gilbert is super strong and the other ones are not because in the end you measure people because they win.”