Cancellara already motoring, would like a result in Qatar or Oman
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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Cancellara already motoring, would like a result in Qatar or Oman

by Shane Stokes at 7:24 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Qatar
 
Swiss rider will chase same objectives this season as he did in 2010

Fabian CancellaraThe Team Leopard squad of Fabian Cancellara went close to clocking up its first win of the 2011 season when sprinter Daniele Bennati finished just behind Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) at the end of stage two of the Tour of Qatar. One of the most notable performances in the closing kilometres was the Trojan work done by Fabian Cancellara, who dragged the main bunch along and lined out those behind him. He was completely focussed on setting things up for Bennati and while things didn’t work out this time round for the Italian, he is in good shape and will try again today.

Cancellara is clearly also in very strong form, judging by his ride yesterday and also his second place behind Lars Boom (Rabobank) in the prologue. He’s keen to show well early on, both for his morale and also in helping his team start off on the right note.

“There’s a bit of pressure in starting a new team and the important thing is to do well from the beginning,” he told Le Quotidien. “I am without pressure here but it would be nice to leave the Persian Gulf after the Tours of Qatar and Oman with a win.”

Twelve months ago Cancellara showed well. He was a quiet 87th in the Tour of Qatar, but finished second in the time trial at the Tour of Oman and won the race overall, beating Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and Cameron Meyer (Garmin Transitions) by 28 seconds. He’ll try to perform strongly again, but is also aware that the most important time for his first peak of the season is in April.

Cancellara’s strength plus his victory in the 2009 Tour de Suisse has led to speculation that he could challenge in the Ardennes Classics, or even for the Tour de France itself. The latter is very debatable, given his bulk, and he would certainly need to shed both fat and muscle to try to follow the best riders in the high mountains. There’s a gamble in taking on that goal, and so too changing his focus to the Ardennes Classics rather than the ones he normally goes for.

Being the first year of his new team, he is choosing to follow a tried and trusted formula rather than doing something new and experimental. “For my part, I’ll try to do what I can do and my goals are the same as in 2010,” he said. “I will not now try to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège or to beat the hour record. We’ll see later.”

Instead, he’s set himself a nice task: returning to the races he won in 2010 and laying down the law once again. “I’ll dispute the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix with the number one. It is already a very nice challenge to try to keep those titles,” he said.

At this point of the season, the rival Garmin-Cervélo squad has clocked up seven wins, including yesterday’s triumph by Haussler. It has said that it wants to challenge for Paris-Roubaix with world champion Thor Hushovd and others and, longer term, wants the world number one slot by the end of the season.

Leopard was ranked best of the teams coming into the season, with the UCI calculating rider points in arriving at that decision. Correctly, Cancellara recognises this as a temporary statistic and one which must be validated on the road. “That means nothing,” he said. “In early 2011, the counters are set at zero. It is at the end of the season that we will know the best team in the world in 2011. If it is Team Leopard, it will be a great satisfaction.”

In chasing that target, a strong performance in the Grand Tours is also highly important. Cancellara has promised to support the Schleck brothers in July, and will doubtlessly help other riders if they are in a position to win at other points of the season. His riding for Bennati yesterday was a case in point.

He’ll get plenty of opportunities himself, however. From now until the end of the Classics season, he’ll be one to watch. The power shown thus far in Qatar suggests that a win will come sooner rather than later; question is, will he have the distinction of clocking up Team Leopard’s first victory?

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