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Crashes upend Cancellara’s Roubaix farewell

Fabian Cancellara's final Paris-Roubaix didn't go as hoped, but the Swiss star says he enjoyed it to the end.

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ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Fabian Cancellara finally ran out of road.

The Trek – Segafredo superstar’s Paris-Roubaix didn’t have the fairytale ending he’s been hunting all spring. Three crashes Sunday dashed his hopes of winning one more monument, a goal that’s so far eluded him in his farewell season.

“There was a crash, I jumped into the field and came back,” Cancellara said. “The second one was a bit unlucky, and the third one was just ice-skating. There it was over and I couldn’t do anything. Roubaix was gone. I tried to look at the damage afterwards, but the damage was too big, and Roubaix was over.”

The Cancellara era officially ended at Paris-Roubaix Sunday when the Swiss 35-year-old rolled across the finish line in 40th place, 7:35 behind winner Mathew Hayman (Orica – GreenEdge). A winner in 2006, 2010 and 2013, few could match Cancellara’s potent acceleration when in he was in peak form in the cobbled classics. Cancellara and archrival Tom Boonen dominated Roubaix for the better part of a decade, with the pair winning seven editions from 2005 to 2013.

After missing last year’s major northern classics, Cancellara battled back with a solid spring that included victory at Strade Bianche in March. A second-place finish at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) last weekend bolstered his confidence, but three crashes Sunday brought him back down to earth.

“I didn’t have the luck that was needed,” he said. “Roubaix started in 2003 in a bad way, and it’s going to finish bad, too. It’s a particular race.”

The 35-year-old Swiss rider wanted to go out like a gladiator, but his hopes for victory were permanently altered Sunday when he was caught up behind a mid-race crash. Etixx—Quick –Step’s Boonen and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) were among a two-dozen riders who were ahead of the crash. A 30-second gap widened to a minute after the riders came through the Arenberg trench, and despite a solid chase from Trek, and help from world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), the gap didn’t come down.

Cancellara then crashed hard when his front wheel slipped out on muddy cobbles, sending Sagan dancing around his bike. Yet another crash took Cancellara out of contention for good.

The bad luck wasn’t going to ruin his day. Cancellara rode proudly into the Roubaix velodrome, where his parents, wife, and children were waiting. A big group of fans waved Swiss flags and cheered when their champion pedaled past. After crossing the line, Cancellara went over to visit his fans, only to fall again.

“I enjoyed this until the end,” Cancellara said. “I had the legs, but if the race is hard like that, you cannot do anything. For me, this is my last Roubaix.”

Cancellara’s not done yet. Up next is the Giro d’Italia, and his quest for the pink jersey. Cancellara is determined to end his racing career fighting to the last.