The Tour de France will lack one of the sport’s brightest stars this year, as Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) will skip the 100th edition to focus on the world championships, to be held in Florence, Italy.
Cancellara, 32, blitzed through his spring campaign, winning E3 Prijs-Harelbeke, Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), and Paris-Roubaix, so it’s clear his form has returned in absolute force after a crash-riddled 2012 in which the Tour was his only respite — although he kept his 2012 Tour plans close to the chest. Now, the Swiss rider has declared he’s out and will seek an elusive rainbow jersey, presumably in both the road race and time trial.
“The Tour has given me beautiful things, but now I set other goals,” Cancellara, a four-time world time trial champion, told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. Cancellara will start his home race, the Tour de Suisse, on Saturday, and will race in Austria, Poland, and at the Vuelta a España to prepare for what’s billed as the hardest worlds course in years, according to recent Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Last year, Cancellara salvaged a rough season for super-team RadioShack-Nissan when he seized the yellow jersey in Liège by winning the prologue at the Tour. He wore the jersey for six stages, and ultimately RadioShack won the team classification, though Cancellara abandoned the race after its 11th stage to be with his then-pregnant wife.
Today’s news comes at a tough time for what’s now the RadioShack-Leopard team, as it announced earlier Friday that Chris Horner would not be able to take the start due to knee issues that led to surgery. Further, Andy Schleck has proven unable to rebound from a crash at last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné, in which he broke his sacrum.
For Cancellara, the move is one that makes sense, as it’s no secret he covets a rainbow jersey in the road race. If the rider known as “Spartacus” is to succeed in Florence this September, he will have done it on a brutally difficult course — which may actually suit his riding style.
Cancellara’s two Flanders victories (2010, 2013) and his 2008 Olympics road race silver medal prove he has the legs to cover long, hilly courses. At the 2009 worlds, he placed fifth in the road race and at last summer’s Olympics, winning a medal was all but assured until he crashed with 15km left in the challenging course.
The world championships start September 22, with the men’s road race capping the week seven days later. They will race 272.5km and climb 3,373 meters, which is comparable to a classic like Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race Cancellara has yet to start.