Fabian Cancellara says that he leaves the E3 Harelbeke proud of what he and his Trek-Segafredo teammates accomplished on Friday after a mechanical forced him to stop with 68km remaining. He rebounded and placed fourth behind winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky).
The Swiss, who is racing in his last season, stopped and tossed his bike against a nearby fence. He crossed his arms while fans gathered and photographers snapped, and the race sped ahead without him. Amazingly, however, he powered back to the leaders after the Oude Kwaremont climb 34km later.
“It was definitely not a Segafredo coffee break,” Cancellara joked at the side of Trek’s black bus after his shower.
“It was definitely a bad moment to have a technical problem. I don’t know if something got touched on my derailleur. I thought that the race was over because when I looked back I knew that there were thousands of groups. In a race like this, it’s not like the next bike is around the corner.
“At first, it was just that the race was over, then the anger came. Somehow I found energy left and I tried to move on because it is a race that you can’t give up.”
Watch: Servais Knaven talks Kwiatkowski’s E3 win
Cancellara’s campaign ended early last year in the same race when he crashed and broke two vertebrae. With only his bike broken, he kept his cool and began a long chase to rejoin the lead group with eventual winner Kwiatkowski, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Tom Boonen (Etixx–Quick-Step).
The television showed one minute between the groups. Etixx with several leaders ahead drove and behind, Trek pushed hard for its Classics star. It later received help from team Katusha, which worked for sprinter Alexander Kristoff.
“It’s not a chase behind a car or a moto on a climb, it’s just a chase back by team support and in all the small groups,” Cancellara said.
“At first, I had Yaroslav Popovych and Markel Irizar, and then I found Gregory Rast and Stijn Devolder, and they helped me up the Paterberg. I tried to move up again and I found Boy Van Poppel on the Kwaremont and then after, I found Jasper Stuyven and we moved up.
“For sure, an effort like this from quite far out… It was full gas. The intensity was good, but it was a small result and maybe we got a few points. It might be good for the car position for the next days but I was racing to win. I’m kind of disappointed but inside and performance-wise, how I was racing, there is also some pride.”