ROUBAIX, France (VN) ─ Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) went down swinging at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, salvaging an impressive second place that Leopard-Trek manager Brian Nygaard called “heroic” when it seemed much of the peloton was racing against him.
Garmin-Cervélo stymied Cancellara’s initial attacks with 50km to go, putting Thor Hushovd on Cancellara’s wheel as eventual winner Johan Van Summeren cooled his heels in the lead breakaway before busting out to a solo victory.
Cancellara wasn’t going to take it quietly, however. The defending champion unleashed a late-race acceleration to bridge out to the remnants of the breakaway group and then dashed to second place in the velodrome at 19 seconds back. He said his podium felt like victory considering the odds he had to overcome.
“I don’t know if I was the strongest today, but I knew that I was very strong. It was clear that it was going to be complicated for me to win today. It’s always better to be at the front, so when we were chasing that breakaway, I wasn’t getting much help. It’s hard to win all by yourself in those conditions,” Cancellara said. “It was full-gas all day. There was no rest. My team did what they could, but Garmin was the strongest team today. We don’t have to search for excuses. They played it smart today. Now they get that victory they were searching for for a long, long time. I gave the maximum today, I cannot say more than that.”
Cancellara carried the Leopard-Trek colors almost single-handedly. Former winner Stuart O’Grady finished outside the time cut while Martin Mortsensen was the team’s best finisher behind Cancellara in 94th at 13:53 off the pace.
Nygaard said Cancellara was the team’s one and only hope for victory and said Cancellara proved yet again he’s one of the best-ever classics riders.
“Fabian can be very proud of his race today. He was out-numbered but you can never count him out. He never gives up and he never lost his focus. With what he did today, he proved again that he’s a damn good bike rider,” Nygaard said. “How he bridged out to that group and then won the bunch sprint for second that showed he had something in his legs today. Paris-Roubaix is a race for heroes and what Fabian did today was heroic.”
Cancellara now takes a well-deserved rest before heading to a likely start at the Tour of California, the Tour de Suisse and Tour de France. With third at Flanders and second at Roubaix, Cancellara came up short for victory, but delivered the goods to guarantee that fans were on the edges of their seat.
“I love Roubaix. People are asking me if I will skip it to try to win Liège, but right now I just want to rest and recover for the next part of my calendar,” Cancellara said. “Right now is not the moment to talk about the future of the classics. I cannot imagine that I would not ride Roubaix again.”