Swiss star Fabian Cancellara managed to finish eighth in the Giro d'Italia's opening time trial in Apeldoorn despite stomach bug and hopes to make it to Italy

Fabian Cancellara‘s goal went from racing for the time trial and pink jersey on day one of the 2016 Giro d’Italia today to simply making it to day four, when the race leaves the Netherlands for its homeland in Italy.

In his last season, the Swiss of team Trek-Segafredo had hoped to add the famous pink jersey to his treasure chest that already includes stage wins and the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, monuments, and four titles in the time trial world championship.

Cancellara, however, fell sick on Wednesday night with a fever and stomach flu and passed all day yesterday in bed. He was not able to compete for the victory in the 9.8-kilometre time trial today around Apeldoorn, but pushed himself all the same to finish eighth at 14 seconds behind Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).

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“I did the most I could because I didn’t just want to come to Apeldoorn for an easy stroll,” Cancellara said. “I didn’t want to return home. I hope I can recover over the next days, but two days in bed really zaps you. I hope to stay and to make it to Italy.

“There are other goals in this Giro, but I first need to take it easy. It’s just important to get to Italy, even if I have to sit up and lose time.”

Fabian Cancellara on stage one of the 2016 Giro d'Italia

Fabian Cancellara on stage one of the 2016 Giro d’Italia. Photo by Graham Watson

The cyclists face two sprint stages over the next two days through the Gelderland province of the Netherlands. If Cancellara does arrive in Italy, he could potentially aim for the Chianti time trial on day nine or another stage victory. Simply arriving there, however, would be important for the team’s new sponsor Segafredo. The coffee giant joined the team this winter as a second title sponsor.

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Cancellara is determined to push on. Today, he said he tried as much as possible even if he had been sick.

“I did what I could do, but my legs didn’t have any strength,” he added. “I spoke with [general manager] Luca Guercilena this morning. I had a lot of stress on me and we worked a lot to be ready for today. I was on the right path to be ready, but I fell sick. I lacked the strength and lacked that something needed to win.”

He must race 190 kilometres on Saturday to Nijmegen and another 190 kilometres to Arnhem on Sunday before the race transfers to Italy and enjoys its first of three rest days. It restarts on Tuesday with a 200-kilometre stage in Calabria, in the toe of Italy’s boot.