Fabian Cancellara: 'Motor allegations hurt, but I didn't need to prove anything to anyone'

Cancellara says he proved throughout his career that he was capable of winning the world's biggest races

Fabian Cancellara at the 2010 Tour of Flanders (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Allegations of using a motorised bike hurt Fabian Cancellara, the former time trial Olympic champion and Classics star, but he says he always proved himself at the highest level.

Cancellara retired in 2016 and is remembered as one of the greats over the cobbles of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Rumours circulated in 2010 that the Swiss used a motor in his bike when he won both in the same season.

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"In one way, it felt like a complement, but on the other hand, it felt bad," Cancellara told Belgian television Canvas.

"I don't need to prove anything to nobody. I proved for 10 years that I could ride at that level and the results were the same. Then people say this or that, he had one [a motorised bike], that's not nice. First they lift you up, then they point the finger at you."

Cancellara, who rivalled Tom Boonen every spring, won the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix three times each.

In 2010, video emerged alleging that Cancellara made strange hand movements coinciding with his accelerations. It appeared Boonen was at a stand still while Cancellara flew away on the Kapelmuur or when Cancellara soloed free in Paris-Roubaix.

"I had experiences from '08 after the Olympics. They came up with the whole [EPO] CERA situation with [Stephen] Schumacher. Carlos Sastre won the Tour de France [with Cancellara's team CSC/Saxo Bank], and after I won the Olympics. They said, they are so strong, maybe they do [cheat]. But in the end, there was nothing. We got put in one pot, that's sad," he added.

"Of course, it hurt me when it came out with the whole moto stuff. I was laughing because they said my legs looked like engines, that's a compliment, but if you go into the details, that's not nice."

Cancellara retired after winning the Olympic time trial again in 2016, taking the gold medal ahead of Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome. The medals added to the four world championship titles he'd already taken in his career.

"I didn't have that many friends. The friends I had were mostly from the outside," Cancellara added.

"With my status and wins it was hard, I'm a concurrent for many. That is why maybe I wasn't liked by them, but I never had problems with any cyclist. I was a bad boy in certain moments, yeah, because I wanted to win races, this is why I was riding my bike.

"I can imagine it's normal [they say I wasn't liked in the peloton], but I'm curious why. Inside, I'm deeply soft. It's not easy for anyone on top. You think for Trump it's easy? Or for Merkel. Or Ronaldo. Or whoever is on top. If you cannot deal with it, you will fail. A lot of people love to see when you fail."

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.