SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy (VN) – The question before the start of Tuesday’s 9.4km individual time trial wasn’t whether Fabian Cancellara was going to win; it was by how much.
The reigning Olympic time trial champion repeated his win from a year ago on the same course and roared to a 12-second victory ahead of RadioShack-Nissan teammate Daniele Bennati, with Cameron Meyer (GreenEdge) stopping the clock for third at 16 seconds slower.
The victory, coupled with Cancellara’s impressive solo victory on the white roads of Tuscany at Strade Bianche some 10 days ago, confirms one thing: that “Spartacus” is in fine form ahead of the spring classics.
“It’s important to win because it shows that I am in good shape for the classics,” Cancellara said. “It’s been a good, hard, solid week. I know the form is there for the classics. I know we will have a strong team. Everyone is motivated for some big performances.”
Cancellara says Saturday’s Milan-San Remo is more like a “lottery” than what he can expect in the northern classics, where he hopes to bash his way across the cobblestones to get the big win that alluded him in 2011.
Bennati’s fine ride Tuesday shows that the Italian sprinter is also in top form for Milan-San Remo, something Cancellara says will only help.
“Having a strong Bennati is good for him, good for me and good for the team,” he said. “Daniele gives us a second option, and that opens options for everyone.”
For San Remo, Cancellara said it was hard to read who is in top shape for the classics’ opener during the demanding, hilly seven-day Tirreno-Adriatico.
“There’s one name that keeps coming up: Sagan,” Cancellara said. “I saw a good [Oscar] Freire, [Mark Cavendish] was good in the sprints in the first part of the week. [Tom] Boonen isn’t here, but I hear he is strong. There will be many riders on the list for San Remo. It’s a race you can win when you’re not 100 percent. It’s a long and special race. Anything can happen.”
After a disappointing classics campaign with Leopard-Trek in 2011, Cancellara said the RadioShack-Nissan team would be a major player in the upcoming classics. With the exception of Chris Horner, the remainder of the team’s seven riders at Tirreno will all be in the trenches over the next few weeks.
RadioShack director Luca Guercilena said putting in a solid week of racing on the demanding Tirreno parcours lays a strong foundation for the team’s classics goals.
“The expectation was to be competitive and to build up form for the upcoming classics, starting with Milan-San Remo on Saturday. With the exception of Horner, the group here is more or less the line-up that is going to help Fabian in his spring goals. Therefore, it is very important that they ride together a lot and build on teamwork that will be useful in the classics,” Guercilena said in a team release. “The guys all come out of Tirreno-Adriatico in good shape and are ready for Milan-San Remo on Saturday. Tirreno-Adriatico is in our eyes a better preparation for San Remo than Paris-Nice because the stages here are longer. We had a stage of 230km and one of 260km, which comes close to the length of la Primavera.”
For Cancellara, he said he would try to make the most of strong team support, something he lacked at times in a 2011 spring campaign that saw him destroy the field at E3 Harelbeke, but finish third at the Tour of Flanders and second at Paris-Roubaix.
“This team has a lot of experience with the grand tours, with Lance, with Johan. This is the first time the (RadioShack) guys will have a real leader for the classics,” Cancellara said. “Everyone is super-motivated. I am excited about the coming races. I think we’re going to put on a big show for everyone.”