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Fabian Cancellara rides a pressure-free Amstel Gold

VILT, Netherlands (VN) – Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) started the Amstel Gold Race Sunday with a big weight off his shoulders.

VILT, Netherlands (VN) – Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) started the Amstel Gold Race Sunday with a big weight off his shoulders. The Swiss king of the classics said in an interview with Dutch television station NOS at the start in Maastricht that the pressure was off for him, despite being shut out at De Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

Cancellara was the center of attention at Paris-Roubaix. | Graham Watson photo

“I feel really free,” said Cancellara. “The stress is gone, the pressure’s gone and I can enjoy it.”

Much of that pressure moved from the world time trial champion to his Luxembourgian teammates Andy and Fränk Schleck. The brothers will face their first Ardennes classics since leaving Bjarne Riis and Saxo Bank in 2010. Fränk broke through in 2006 with a solo win in the Amstel Gold. Andy followed three years later at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Cancellara hasn’t started the Amstel Gold Race since 2004, but said in March he would do so not with an eye toward a run at his fourth of five monuments at Liège and the world championship road race in 2012, but with a look for the win. The top contenders marked Cancellara out of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix and the Amstel parcours, basically a paved version of Flanders, may serve him the best opportunity since his demonstrative win at E3 Harelbeke.

“For the moment, my plan is to go until Amstel because I think this is possible until there. Then I need a break,” he told a small number of press in San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy. “I will go on there as long as I have my energy. I don’t go there to only start and then say hello a little bit to the Limbish people and watch the parcours for the worlds. I’m going there to get the result out and go for the win. I know the Cauberg is hard, I know, but you have to calculate.”