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Fabian Cancellara says a Milano-Sanremo victory is in his cards

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Mar. 15, 2013
  • Updated 2 days ago
Fabian Cancellara says Milano-Sanremo is "the most difficult race to win," but the 2008 winner knows the tactics necessary to earn a victory. Photo: Gregor Brown | VeloNews

MILAN (VN) — Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) has been analyzing Milano-Sanremo a lot over the last year. The near miss and subsequent classics season left him wanting more.

“It’s not the hardest race,” he said, “but it’s the most difficult race to win.”

The Swiss rider zipped away with two kilometers left in 2008 and won solo. He was the last and one of only 44 to win the Italian Monument alone.

Along the way, Cancellara has collected victories in Paris-Roubaix and Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). He has an amazing four World Championship time trial titles and numerous yellow jerseys from the Tour de France.

He led the Tour de France for seven days last year after winning the prologue, but Sanremo went wrong and set the trend for the following classics.

Cancellara joined Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) in an attack over the top of the Poggio. Cancellara worked the most to ensure the trio’s safe passage, but he lost the race. Gerrans, the quickest sprinter, easily took the win.

“I know how to race it, but sometimes it’s not easy when you are in a good situation like last year,” Cancellara added. “Sometimes things can change in a short millisecond. You can’t just push a button and go away.”

One year on

Cancellara spoke at the head of the table to a small group of journalists in Tirreno-Adriatico. His black hair was long, combed back and shiny, and his face was full of expressions.

He smiled when asked how he can win Sunday’s Sanremo. It seems he is too slow to better a small group and too marked to solo away.

“I can do a lot, I have my cards to play,” he said. “I know Milano-Sanremo well. It’s the most particular race out of all the classics. It’s hard to predict. We can name the favorites, but that doesn’t mean they’ll win. It depends on the weather, the way the race goes, the Cipressa and the Poggio’s descent. … The number of teammates a rider has with him.”

The Sagan problem

Odds-makers give Peter Sagan (Cannondale) the best chance of winning, 7:4. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) holds 17:2 odds, Matthew Goss (Orica) 14:1, and Cancellara, the fourth -ranked rider, 16:1.

Sagan, it seems, just cannot be beat. In Tirreno-Adriatico last week, he kept more in reserve after a long, wet day to out-kick the sprinters and muscled his way over the climb to win in Sant’Elpidio.

Over the winter, Sagan explained that he is aiming for a big classic.

Cancellara talked about age, pointed out young 21-year-olds in the peloton. He realizes Sagan, only 23, has something special. In fact, the Slovak seems to annoy Cancellara.

“I have my ideas [on how to beat him] but I’ll keep it to myself,” Cancellara said. “He’s not been so gentlemanly with me so far, so I won’t pull with him if we get away – that’s how it goes. I’ll have to see how it happens, but I don’t think I’ll be pulling people, even him, to the finish line as I did last year.

“He’s going to be watched, for sure, along with a few other ones. Being in an Italian team, having won so much already, he’ll have pressure on his shoulders. Cannondale will have to handle it and take the race in hand.

“Maybe now is his time to get his big win, but I can tell you that those big wins become harder and harder to get.”

Going solo

Cancellara gladly talked for over 30 minutes, answering questions about the London Olympics and RadioShack teammate Andy Schleck. However, thinking back to Sanremo last year and hearing the journalists’ questions on the cool night last week got him thinking.

Yesterday, he wrote congratulations on Twitter to his neo-pro teammate Bob Jungels for winning the GP Nobili. He pointed out how he won solo and how it marked the start of the big classics for RadioShack. It seems Cancellara, like in 2008, is considering a solo attack of his own this Sunday.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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