In typical Swiss punctuality, Fabian Cancellara was straight into press conference with no messing about and telling it how it is. He is a very to the point sort of person, but then I guess you don’t win time trials without assuredness and precision. Three journalists and a camera crew were told everything they needed to know in a very informative 20 minutes.
PEZ: So, how is Fabian Cancellara?
Fabian Cancellara: I’m back and ready for some hard work for the coming season. I was awhile away from, I wouldn’t say the spotlight, but from everything cycling. I think it was a good time, I needed that time after, I wouldn’t say a long year, but a year of many things that happened and I’m really looking forward now because I’m missing racing and missing those feelings when you have good shape. Training now is definitely a huge difference, like in August, July or for the Spring Classics I had the form, but that’s normal and I love the challenge, I like the challenge, so that’s good.
PEZ: Do you think you needed that break mentally and physically?
Fabian: First I think it was physically because of the crash I had in the Olympics on the corner, and then in the time trial I damaged the bone even more and so I think first it was physical.
And then afterwards it was more mentally as also that I needed to rest after the crash in the Classics, in Flanders. It was a hard moment. When you crash in a situation when you have a super condition and already good feelings for the day, because up till then I was on a good wave. Unfortunately things happen and it was a new situation for me with handling a new experience, about being in hospital having a broken collarbone, it just wasn’t a little broken collarbone, it was a difficult break and the healing was also a little longer than we expected.
I came back at the Bayern Rundfarht and I was happy getting back for that. I don’t think I was 100% recovered in the head, mentally due to the situation for that one month. I went on to the Tour and had one week in yellow to become the record holder (28 days-Ed.), not to win it, but to have the jersey (current riders-Ed.), gave me and the team a lot of satisfaction for all the work I had done. Then onto the Olympics and to nearly have the gold medal on a plate and losing it all on one corner. That’s how it is, for sure that cracked me. I knew for the time trial I had nothing to lose and in the end, with all this, and plus becoming a father a few days before going to the Olympics and the whole situation personally, and the whole situation cycling wise or like business wise, you have two things and this for sure used a lot of mental power also. So then I had the hand break and I had to look after myself, my health and for what is necessary and I think that was good. It gives me a big fresh up and I could do a lot of things, I could enjoy my family, my little one, and I could enjoy all this, use this time with my friends and my family. I had been away for four or five months because of the Classics and you almost restart again to go to the new challenge of the Olympics, we didn’t have plenty of time, the days were counting. But I could have time for myself, we were not on a big holiday with many days away to see the World, no we were just at home living a normal daily life, as normal people do.
PEZ: How much time did you have off the bike?
Fabian: It was more a month than weeks, but that wasn’t a negative. I know when I have to be careful, for sure after a while I thought; “ah! there is still something” and I could have gone to the last two or three races, but in the end it doesn’t make sense to be on the start line, that causes more damage to myself and that’s why I said to myself; the bike is away and cycling has gone and all that generally happens. I just lived a normal daily life as most people are doing and not being in the media and not being on the races and not being on events or on charities, just nothing. That can be good because you see things differently and I’m really back motivated, not because I was away long, just because I put everything in order and I went back to the basis and that’s what counts, because the basis is the first thing you need to build up to get to your goal.
PEZ: Where do you see your future in cycling?
Fabian: For sure my challenge is more for the one day races, I think that’s clear because I’ve won everything possible in the time trial…almost. Except a time trial or prologue in the Giro d’Italia, in my opinion, that’s the only thing that’s missing. My motivation is really for those Classic races. It’s hard to always find the motivation for the time trials when you have won everything, because it’s not the same challenge anymore. That’s why I’ll go that way, for sure there will a challenge once in a while in a time trial, but now I have high ambitions on big races and that is where I want to put my efforts in. I don’t what to go two ways, I want to go in one direction and I want to do it good, I know when I do something 100% I know I should normally get something or come close to that.
PEZ: Do you think you can hold your fitness from Milan-Sanremo all the way through to Flanders and Roubaix?
Fabian: Yea, I think everything is possible. In the 2012 season I was from Sanremo to, normally, Roubaix or even Amstel in this condition, I can imagine that this can happen, but as I said it’s not just the body that gets tired, it’s the mental situation and there you have to be fit. After the season you don’t need months and months for recovery from your body, no no no. It’s over for your body, it’s recovering, it’s the mental recovery you need and that I think is forgotten in cycling that it is that kind of recovery more than the body.
PEZ: Do you think Tom Boonen had an advantage in the Classics because his team was more settled?
Fabian: I can only speak about up to the Classics and we were building with Dirk Demol and the entire team for the Classics and I didn’t see something that was missing, everyone was going well and building up for those races and you could see even without a leader they were super strong in Flanders and we were super good in all the races before, and in Tirreno-Adriatico we had seven Classics riders helping a climber and having a great result. We had a super atmosphere between the riders and staff and to go with our focus. I bring my experience into this group, I had a big challenge and they saw how hard I was working and I was giving them things and they get something back. In the end we just missed the jackpot in one of those races, but that’s how sport is, its luck that that is how sport is or it would be too simple.
The best situation is always that everything around me is perfect, but that’s not possible, nobody is perfect and I know that even when I am super strong sometimes I could make differences, but it’s not always possible to make so much difference. 2011 was a hard start, 2012 was better, but the situation came up and especially for the Classics it wasn’t on my side. When I look at the entire year and I spoke with my manager in Switzerland he said “don’t forget eh! You’ve still been seven days in yellow, you beat the record, other riders maybe have one day in the yellow jersey, but you already have 28 days and beat the record and you still are able to have results on a high level like that.” That’s not just a two or three years, I’ve been riding at this level since 2006, I’m riding on the highest level, like on the Champions League, this is something you mustn’t forget. So hey, I’m not bad, I’m still there where I want to be and that’s still a big challenge. To just be one year good and three years bad or three years good and then bad is not my way, I always want to be the best as I can in the races that I am good.
PEZ: Will it be a disadvantage that you didn’t see the new final of Flanders because of your crash?
Fabian: The problem was that I crashed and that was the biggest problem. Riding the final or not would not make a difference, if you see the race and how everything came, it came by itself that it was hard. I knew I was super strong on the day and I had super strong feeling and I felt that in many of the kilometres before I crashed. Yea it’s changed and I hope that next year I’m going to see the final.
PEZ: Would you say the new final would suit you more than the old one?
Fabian: Well if it suits me better or not, in the end I want to win. If it suits me or not it’s on the laps we will see. It is a nice lap, but first I have to get there to say if it is good or bad or if the change is positive for me or whatever it is. Just doing it in training is not the same as doing it in the race.
PEZ: What changes has the new manager, Luca Guercilena brought to the team?
Fabian: He has made it really clear what the direction of working is and where he, the team and where the sponsors want to go and that the direction of the riders as well. He shakes the house and everything goes on and I think we are on the way to where we want to go. I want to win races and I want to have a new challenge next year and all the other riders have as well. We just need to be in a good stable structure function and then I think we will go on. I don’t think we had issues or problem; we just had things that were not just right in place. I think I’ve said enough about last year and I’m closing the book, like most of us have done to look forward, because to look back is not the challenge we want. The challenge we want is to open a new book and to write some new stories.
PEZ: There were rumours that you might leave the team; did the new manager help you to decide to stay?
Fabien: You see rumours all the time, there are always rumours about this and that, it’s just the life of being a well known rider, everyone knows me and they know I don’t like a situation like that, but in the end I am always calm and confident in Luca, but I didn’t know what was coming. For everything to break down was the last thing anyone wanted was for this Leopard project to go down as that would be 60 people and that was a critical situation. But in the end we have sponsors that believe in the riders and riders who believe in the way everything goes and now we go into 2013 with high ambitions.
PEZ: What do you think of the new riders on the team?
Fabian: I think that was a good new move, I’ve known Danilo Hondo for a long time and I know he is a highly professional bike rider with a lot of experience and it will be an important key role that we are going to be able to play in our tactics. The general talk was that we had to reinforce, get more strength more riders for what we need, so to get Stijn Devolder was a good card that we are going to play. He won Flanders twice, when he is really ready and everything is set up and also mentally for him he will be a really strong helper, because we have Rast, Popovych, Tony Gallopin, Hayden Roulston and young riders; Jesse Sergent and with Nizzolo. We have young riders, we have a good set-up and we will be fine because last year they had been riding really super and I think we will be back to the level we want to be like back in 2012.
PEZ: Which race do you really want to win in 2013?
Fabian: The Classic races stand out, but first it is important that I win something and I hope it’s going to be one of those big ones, that’s the second thing. I want to build up towards those races and I know what I need to be ready for that. For sure I have two and maybe it could be three and in the end it could be four with Sanremo, with Flanders and you have Roubaix and Amstel, those are normally in the plan. You have four big cards to play and I will do the maximum I can do for all those races to get something.
Fabian working hard for Andy Schleck in the 2010 Tour de France on the Roubaix cobbles.
PEZ: Will riding Amstel depend on how your cobbled Classics go?
Fabian: Thing is that your condition is so high that you will not lose that in one week, like two years ago, how good my condition was actually, but I was in the crash, but to get there was an experience too. I rode Amstel two times, first with Fassa Bortolo, just to pull a bit and not to finish and now last year and I finished the race, but on the back because of the crash. You only need to do one good training ride the week before this as you have done Sanremo; a long distance a long race, you do the pre-races before Flanders; Harlebeke and Wevelgem, they are long and hard, you do Flanders which is long and hard and you do Schelde Prijs, Roubaix long and hard. Your body gets used to those distances, your body is used to those hard races and that is why you can go deep and sometimes you need a while to get really ready. I remember when I was at the start of 2011, after 200 kilometres it was like a button that has been switched on, before it was like “how hard is this and how hard is that” and then suddenly your body goes into the mood of having hard races and thing come easy, but the crash was there and that’s why I am looking forward have this chance to go there, even finish at the top of the Cauberg I’m not scared of that, I know what strings I have and what I can do.
PEZ: Is there one race in your whole career, above all others, you would like to win?
Fabian: Oh!…there are a few missing, maybe World championships (road race) is still missing, there are others missing, but I think that I have quite a high ambition for this race, who wouldn’t want to be World champion? And I think when someone says they don’t want to be World champion they should change their work! We have seen over the years how the Worlds are, I don’t say I can’t come close, but to take it one day, mmmm. But I would say the Worlds are a different race from the other Classic races or big one day races. Next year there is a new chance in Florence and we will see.
There you have it from the horse’s mouth, Fabian Cancellara: World Road Race Champion. We know he suits the rainbow bands, but it would be nice to see the big Swiss rider win Flanders or/and Roubaix in the striped jersey.