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An interview with Fabian Cancellara, July 7, 2007
Can Cancellara log another win?
The world time trial champion is very much attached to the rainbow jersey, but he'd be happy to exchange it for another on Saturday. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes reports from London.
Three weeks ago Fabian Cancellara broke a nine-month winless spell when he scorched to a dominant victory on the opening stage of the Tour de Suisse. On twisting, technical 3.8 kilometre course the big Swiss engine beat Daniele Bennati (Lampre) by a full eight seconds, thus christening his rainbow jersey as world TT champion.
Eight days later he was at it again, taking the final stage of the race with a 20 second victory over Andreas Klöden (Astana). His third TT win came soon afterwards in the Swiss national championships.
At precisely 6.06 pm on Saturday evening the 26 year-old rider will chase another triumph against the clock when he launches himself down the starting ramp in London's Whitehall area. He's got several targets in the Tour, including helping CSC teammate Carlos Sastre to what they hope will be a victorious general classification effort, but the first goal is to repeat what he did in the Tour de Suisse and muscle his way into yellow on the opening day.
Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but he was sounding confident during CSC pre-Tour press conference. "I am ready," he stated. "The last time trial after eight days of the Tour de Suisse was very good. I know that this is not the same as the Tour de Suisse but my form is good and that the important thing. I know I am a specialist and I will do my best tomorrow with the rainbow jersey on my shoulders.
"I know what I have to do," he added. "I need to show the condition that I have had in my last races. That is something that pushes me more, because when you win races, it is something that is very rewarding. I was waiting a long time to win something before the Tour de Suisse…that [period] was hard, but then getting victory is a very good feeling."
Cancellara took Tour prologue victory in Liège three years ago and after missing out on team selection 12 months ago, is psyched to do so again. "It would mean a lot to win tomorrow in London," he says. "I'm already in the world championship jersey, starting the Tour de France in the city where CSC has its European headquarters. So there are several important reasons to try to do well."
The Liège victory in 2004 was on a 6.1 kilometre course, and there he beat Lance Armstrong by two seconds. The London version is 1.8 kilometres longer but is on the same sort of wide, sweeping roads - these should suit his characteristics well. He had an idea of who his main rivals are likely to be. "I am sure that we will see David Millar and Bradley Wiggins and Dave [Zabriskie] and Stuart [O'Grady] do well," he outlined. "There are so many riders but nobody really showed a very big performance in the last few races."
"But we are on the Tour, the Tour is always different," he added. "I'm sure it is good that I am not off early, like perhaps the time trial in the Tour of Italy. In the Tour de Suisse I started really early [in the time trial] but on the prologue I was nearly last to go.
"I'm hoping tomorrow will be the same [as far as what kind of time I need to do]. I have also to work more on the psychological side, because when you know the distance, then you know you go deeper and deeper to try to win the race."
Races of this distance are often won by fractions of a second and so checking out the course is vitally important. Due to London traffic, the riders will only get their first proper run in on Saturday morning. This doesn't leave a whole lot of time before things get underway at 3 pm, and so it will be important to get the maximum benefit from the window that is available.
"I think that tomorrow we will be looking at the parcours from around 11 o'clock," he reveals. "Right now I only know that there are big roads, nothing more, so we will hope to find the best way to do things. From the morning until the finish line we will do everything 100 percent.
"I rode the prologue course eight times before the Tour de Suisse," recalled Cancellara. "The problem is that logistically it was much more easy to do that there [than in a big city like London]. I really don't know what will happen tomorrow. I will see it two or to three or times and if it is more technical, we will see.
"It is important for the head, like when you see the skiers and they are doing work for their motivation," he explained. "Tomorrow [morning] will be useful to find the best part of the road, looking for the best asphalt, the best place for the wind. I also hope that for everybody the time trial will happen under the same conditions; that is the most important thing, because when it is raining for some people and when others have dry roads, it makes things very different."
Cancellara's recent performances have given him the belief that if everything comes together one hundred percent, he could be well clear at the finish. "I can win," he declared. "On paper it is possible that I can really win [by a good margin - ed.]. But these days have not been easy for everyone because we have spent a lot of time in cars, time spent travelling. That said, I feel good and I want to go now to the start line and to get things underway."
For now Cancellara's not thinking too far ahead. He's zoned his tunnel vision on winning the prologue; there is time enough afterwards to decide his and CSC's strategy for the rest of the Tour.
"I will focus on one thing for now, on these 7.9 kilometres. I will do the best I can and then we will see what happens," he noted. "After that, I will speak with the team and see what I will do. Perhaps I will go in a couple of breaks or try in the later time trials, but until Saturday evening I will focus on this."
Of course, local favourites Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) and David Millar (Saunier Duval) will have two advantages. The first is the fact that both of them have already ridden the course in the run-up to the race, albeit on open roads. The second is the home support they will enjoy from the British supporters. Cancellara hopes that the fans will still get behind him and the other prologue contenders.
"We are in London. It is a very, very big city. I think that there will be many people along the roads, and not only English people," he said. "I will have supporters and the people will cheer the riders who are going very fast. I hope that with my world champion's jersey, I will get support and do something good."