Fabian Cancellara ahead of Amstel Gold start: "I feel liberated - as free as a bird."
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fabian Cancellara ahead of Amstel Gold start: "I feel liberated - as free as a bird."

by Jered Gruber at 8:04 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Leopard Trek rider returns to Holland's biggest race for the first time since 2004 with no pressure

With the grand finale of the cobbled classics at Paris-Roubaix last weekend, Fabian Cancellara, turned the page on the first three Monuments and leaves them happily behind.

"I feel liberated, as free as a bird," writes the four-time World Time Trial Champion in his column in Het Nieuwsblad.

"The immense pressure I've had for weeks on my shoulders is gone. I feel reborn with the Schlecks."

Cancellara will make his return to the Amstel Gold Race for the first time since 2004. The cycling world looks a lot different in 2011 than it did seven years ago, particularly Cancellara's untouchable palmares.

The rider who managed an impressive string of podiums in the year's first three Monuments: Milano-Sanremo, Flanders, and Roubaix (2nd, 3rd, and 2nd respectively), concedes that the pressure to perform on the cobbles was huge, but with their passing, the good feelings have returned.

"After I switched the Roubaix button off in my head. It didn't even bother me to train for 5.5 hours on Thursday in 11 degree temperatures. Here's a happy Fabian."

Cancellara won't be a major favorite on Sunday, but there's absolutely no reason to think that the native of Bern can't play a huge part, perhaps even win the Amstel Gold Race. The 30 year old has the performances to allow for such pondering - a podium at the Beijing Worlds and a courageous ride at the Mendrisio Worlds resoundingly prove his ability. The only question is whether his fitness will remain at the same level with his returned happiness.

It will certainly be an unfamiliar race for Cancellara in terms of pressure. All eyes will be on his Ardennes loving teammates, the Schleck Brothers, Jakob Fuglsang, and Fabian Wegmann.

"Saturday, I'll ride the final forty kilometers as refreshment. Of course I know the Eyserbosweg, Keutenberg, and Cauberg. Do I know the right order? Nope."

It's scary to think that a rider like Cancellara could play the role of a joker. While it's certainly possible that the Leopard Trek star could ride for a surprise, he wonders about a rider that won't be anywhere near an outside chance: Philippe Gilbert.

"I also wonder how Gilbert will deal with the pressure. After the Brabantse Pijl, he is the Cancellara of the Ardennes. The way Gilbert won on Wednesday reminds me of my victory in the E3."

However, Cancellara doesn't concede too much to the Omega Pharma-Lotto captain.

"He had less resistance in Overijse though, but on Sunday, he will be pushed hard."

With the spring's frustrating cobbled chapter closed, the 2010 Flanders/Roubaix double winner can't resist a little shot at his rivals from the past weeks.

"[Gilbert] doesn't have to worry about me following his wheel though. That's not my racing style. I wish him good luck."


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