Fabian Cancellara’s Trek-Segafredo team-mates have lamented the loss that his retirement at the end of this season will bring to the squad, particularly his help mentoring younger riders.
Edward Theuns is one of seven riders aiming to assist Cancellara win the Tour of Flanders on Sunday for a record fourth time, before the Swiss targets success in Paris-Roubaix next weekend – a race he has already won three times, too.
At 24 and one of many heralded as Belgium’s potential next Classics superstars, Theuns is one of many keen to learn from Cancellara in his remaining race days.
“Ghent-Wevelgem was the first Flemish race I did with him and I must say it’s a pity that he stops because I really enjoyed racing with him,” Theuns, whose stand-out spring one day results are second and third in Dwars door Vlaanderen, told Cycling Weekly.
“He’s a true leader and he has so much experience in those races. It’s great to race with a person and a rider like him.
“I enjoy that I can be in his team for the last year. It makes me really motivated for these Flemish races.”
While Cancellara is the undoubted protected team leader, he still shares his wealth of knowledge and experience to his team-mates, something which Theuns lists as invaluable.
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He added: “You observe him, looking at what he does in the race. If you’re in the wind, he says ‘wait a little bit and then go’.
“These are little things but you can save a lot of energy and he knows when and where he has to do these things. It’s by observing this that you learn these things and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Theuns’ compatriot and teammate, Jasper Stuyven, is being tipped as Cancellara’s heir apparent with regards to the team’s one day race leader, but Theuns’ own results – including finishing second at Scheldeprijs last year – suggest that he too could take Spartacus’ place in the future.
“I think I can win the races just behind the main Classics now, but if I can win those big Classics, we’ll have to see in the future,” he said. “I hope it’s going to be possible but I’m going to have to see my evolution in the next few years.”