Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) spent a long time away from the podium. He had not won a race since the 2012 Tour de France prologue in Liège. A crash in the London Olympics and the classics left him with a bitter feeling heading into the off-season. That all changed with an attack on the Kwaremont today in the E3 Harelbeke.
Spartacus appears to have risen from the grave. His attack on the Kwaremont was vintage (2011) material. It shocked his opponents and gave him enough of an advantage to build upon.
"Fabian was going truly fast," Peter Sagan (Cannondale), second at 1-04 minutes, said. "We were not able to pull back 10 or even five seconds on him."
"I had to try on Kwaremont," Cancellara explained. "I knew there were too many Omega Pharma riders. I had to do a big selection and see how it looked afterwards."
It looked good.
Geraint Thomas of team Sky, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Daniel Oss (BMC Racing), Sebastian Langeveld (Orica-GreenEdge) and Sagan hesitated. Cancellara's advantage jumped from 15 seconds to one minute. Given his four time trial world titles, it was too much.
Not once, but twice
The Cancellara express train was derailed not once, but twice last season. Right after the Kwaremont in last year's Tour of Flanders, he crashed and broke his collarbone. Remarkably for the seasoned pro, winner of Flanders and Roubaix, it was his first fracture.
He returned, won the opening prologue and took the yellow jersey for seven days in the Tour de France. Everyone seemed to forget his troubles in the classics, at least until the Olympics.
Cancellara misjudged a corner while leading the race winning escape and ruled himself out of competition. He soldiered on to race the time trial, but he was destroyed. He stopped training for some time and did not pin on a number until six months later, in February, in the Tour of Qatar.
"It shows the long break and the restart [worked]," Cancellara added. "This is the result that I wanted."
A snowstorm edging its way to Belgium threatens Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday. Either way, Cancellara will spend the next week at home to Bern, Switzerland, preparing while the pressure builds for the Tour of Flanders.
He and Boonen were the hot favourites for Flanders before E3 Harelbeke. The race favourite title now belongs solely to Cancellara.
"It's not over, it's the start of the special Christmas week next week," Cancellara added. "I don't just go home and sit on the couch. The pressure builds, it just becomes harder [for me]."
Cancellara dominates E3 Harelbeke
Spring Classics 2013 coverage index
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