ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Fabian Cancellara walked off the Roubaix velodrome infield, a comet tail of cameras, writers and fans behind him, his second Flanders-Roubaix double in hand.
He climbed the stairs into the VIP area, sat down, and promptly said he didn’t know how he did it and couldn’t remember a thing from the last 40 kilometers of racing.
“I think the hands are okay. It’s just the whole rest of the body is — how I can say? Flat fucked,” Cancellara said.
When asked to describe the velodrome sprint, in which he pipped Blanco’s Sep Vanmarcke at the line, he couldn’t really recall it.
“I don’t know, actually. From 40K to the finish line, how I did it. You go in another world. You’re just pedaling, and you try to not give up … I had to play Russian roulette on the end there … When you have everyone against you, everyone against the team, it’s harder.”
Sunday’s win in the Roubaix velodrome gave the Swiss rider his second double — Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix wins in the same season — and his fifth cobbled monument victory, in addition to a Milano-Sanremo win, in 2008.
The result capped a dream spring for the rider they call Spartacus, who a year ago was nursing a broken collarbone from Flanders while his rival Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) secured his own double, plus a record-tying fourth Roubaix win.
This spring, however, has belonged only to Cancellara, with no win more dramatic or finer than Sunday’s. It’s the one he had to work the hardest for.
“I was searching for victory. I don’t know how I did it. It was a big thing,” he said. “I went over my limits probably never like this. …
“I was happy [to win]. But I was probably more happy the race was finished. The fight was finished. Just lying down on the ground and having my minute of breathing and coming back to planet Earth.”
One by one, Cancellara’s RadioShack-Leopard teammates peeled away Sunday, as furious attacks from Sky and Omega Pharma shredded the bunch, and forced RadioShack to carry the race all day.
The expectations lay heavy on both the team and its star, who, in spite of two crashes last week, entered the Hell of the North as the absolute favorite. And as on last Sunday, at Flanders, he didn’t disappoint.
“I’m happy like last Sunday,” said sport director Dirk Demol. “We knew what we were facing. It was the whole peloton against us … in the briefing, we were sure we had the best rider with Fabian. Also, I told the boys: You’re incredible. We have a very strong team.”
With about 50km to go, though, it was just Cancellara and his rivals. Omega had numbers, though a few crash encounters with fans along the Carrefour cobble sector eradicated a hard day’s work.
Eventually, Cancellara broke free with Vanmarcke, who missed out on a good deal of spring form-building, but came good in time for Roubaix.
Cancellara attacked the 24-year-old Belgian inside of 5km to go, but the younger man pulled him back, and the fight began.
“I knew my strengths. I knew my confidence,” Cancellara said. “In the end, we spoke not so much. I tried to play the game … to make him pull as well. To show him that I would not pull him to the finish line.”
The two entered the velodrome together, with Cancellara coming to a stop high on the first turn, forcing Vanmarcke to come inside of him. The result was a classic match sprint, in which the younger man was forced to pull Spartacus to the line, and lost by the skin of his kit.
“My two first stones I won in a great way. But this third stone will have another level of riding,” Cancellara said. “I’m just happy. Happy with the stone, happy with the double. Great history there.
“In the end, what counts is victory. Everything else is just show.”
Cancellara had a spot for this third Paris-Roubaix rock picked out long ago: a window in his sauna, next to his other two, from wins in 2006 and 2010. And if he wins another, he said, he may just have to find a new sauna.
“Actually, I’m not thinking on the fourth stone,” Cancellara said. “Mostly, what I’m thinking is just resting, and having my days off.”
Spartacus is certainly back. And now, he’ll take a rest before his next battle campaign.