World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara fulfilled all the predictions and blasted his way to gold in the men?s time trial, just days after taking bronze in the men?s road race.
Best known to British fans as the winner of the London prologue in the Tour 2007 Cancellara had no problems seeing off the opposition in a stunning performance at the Juyongguan road circuit.
Cancellara was so exhausted afterwards that he lay against the crash barriers for a few minutes, his mouth ringed with sweat and spittle.
But the way he had his right arm raised in triumph when he crossed the line showed there was no doubt in his mind as to where he had finished: in first place, 33 seconds ahead of Gustav Larsson of Sweden, with American Levi Leipheimer in third. Steve Cummings, Britain’s only rider in the event, took a creditable eleventh.
As ever with the Swiss star, even though the weather was still horrendously hot and humid, making it tricky to calculate effort, his time trial was a masterclass in how to race against the clock.
Perfectly positioned on the bike, his shoulders barely quivered with each pedal-stroke either on the grinding 11 km uphill or the fast descent. It?s a cliche to say that Cancellara?s body melded with his machine, but in this case, it is hard to find another way to express just how well he was riding.
Seven seconds behind Larsson at the final split at the top of the climb on the second lap, he went all out in the final descent to come back for one of the biggest wins of his career. Mission accomplished.
For the Swiss rider, the addition to his palmares is just the latest in a series of victories that stretches from Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix to two prologues in the Tour – not to mention an epic Tour stage win at Compiegne last year.
This year in the Tour, Cancellara did not do as well on a personal level as expected – he didn?t win the opening time trial at Cholet, and then he got roped into working for CSC-Saxo Bank?s overall contenders – the Schleck brothers and eventual overall winner Carlos Sastre.
Cancellara performed that inglorious but necessary task to perfection. But in Beijing he was back on his own terrain – and how he shone.
“It was a perfect day for me,” Cancellara said after the finish.
“I had to give everything, and I’m very proud of my ride, and of going home with two medals.”
“At the top of the climb I heard I was six seconds down, so I gave it everything I could. I didn’t want to lose today. I was the favourite, and I prepared specially for today, so there was a lot of pressure. But I’m proud to be the winner,” he said.
Third-placed Levi Leipheimer said that his enforced absence from the Tour de France in July motivated him to perform well. His Astana team were barred by the organisers for doping infractions in 2007.
“I so badly wanted to be there,” he said.
“Sitting at home in July gave me motivation to train as hard as I could. And it was so close for third place. I kept telling myself I wouldn’t let it happen that I’d get beaten to a medal by 10 or 15 seconds. Part of that came from having to watch the Tour at home.”
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