By Andrew Hood
Fabian Cancellara’s classics campaign is in doubt following a shoulder injury that forced him out of today’s start of the five-day Vuelta a Murcia.
The Olympic time trial champion recently crashed at his home in Switzerland during a training ride, injuring his right shoulder blade and throwing a wrench into his racing and training schedule ahead of the spring classics.
“I really needed the kilometers in Murcia, but the pain in my shoulder won’t let me unfortunately,” Cancellara said on the team’s web page. “It sucks for sure that I’ve had to take another break at this point, especially since I didn’t get further than the prologue in California.”
The Saxo Bank captain was already behind in his training program after he pulled out early after winning the prologue at the Tour of California with a cold.
Rather than defend his title at Monte Paschi Eroica this weekend in Italy, the team decided to race him at the five-day Murcia event in order to give him extra miles at race speed in an attempt to catch up for the northern classics.
Team officials now admit that Cancellara – winner last year of Milan-San Remo and the 2006 champion at Paris-Roubaix – might not be at his best in time for the grueling, one-day races.
“We have to be realistic and admit that we won’t be able to expect results like the ones Fabian managed same time last year. The most important thing is for his shoulder to get better so he’s able to race again as soon as possible,” said Saxo Bank sport director Kim Andersen. “If all goes according to plan, he should be able to get ready in which case he’ll be on top form for the two big ones: Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. It’ll be a race against time, but Fabian has surprised us all more than once.”
Instead of racing this week at Murcia, Cancellara is expected to return to racing at next week’s Tirreno-Adriatico (March 11-17), which he won last year as part of his impressive spring run.
If all goes well, Cancellara might be at the start line at Monte Paschi Eroica after all.
“There’s still a month to go before we hit the cobblestones and hopefully I’ll be able to make up for lost time so I’ll be at a level fit for the classics,” Cancellara said. “This is not an ideal situation, but I’ll just have to do my very best to fight my way back in shape. I think it’s possible but only if I don’t have any more accidents from now on.”
In an interview with VeloNews at the team training camp in January, Cancellara said his top goal this spring is Tour of Flanders.
“The main goal for the whole spring classics will be Flanders,” he said. “When I’ve won something and have in the pocket, I go for something else. You can’t always do the same thing year after year.”