What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Interviews: Fabian Cancellara

Upon finishing his first Time Trial of the year in Solvang, California, we caught up with Fabian Cancellara, the affable 2006 World Road TT Champion. After slipping out of his Spiderman-like World Champion white body suit, Fabian brought a huge smile and goatee stubble to the table; and in a great mood he gave us way more than the usual fifteen minutes of (interviewing) fame as it became forty-five (here’s part 1):

– Interview by Andrew Rogers-

PEZ: Hi Fabian, good to see you again; after watching you shoot past me this morning, I hit the press room and tracked you on the Google Earth maps screen via CSC’s new software (check out their OmniLocation) – very cool! Many thought you might pull off the victory today in your specialty: How did your time trial feel?

Fabian: I was feeling really good with a good sensation, but when a few guys are going really fast (Voigt and Levi)…Yea, it was really impressive, they pushed harder!

PEZ: It was shocking to see how much time Levi took out of you and Jens! [around 30 seconds – ed.] I thought he would have had a tougher time with the head and cross wind than you big guys…

FABIAN: You can never really say how it happens but hey, he was just faster…and yes, his team was here (Solvang) for winter camp working on the course, so they knew the places to gain time, the climb and descent…

PEZ: So you never tested the course here or rode it with the team?

FABIAN: No, my first time today, I checked it out this morning.

PEZ: Your team was here last year for camp, but how does Solvang, in terms of training, compare to your new camp in Gilroy, known to the world as the Garlic ‘world champ’?

FABIAN: (Laughing) Gilroy is better: For training it’s good in Solvang, but for climbing, there’s really only one good climb, but the road isn’t so good. In Gilroy, there was everything, different mixes of climbs, flats and lakes: You can work on more specific things.

PEZ: Specialized bikes’ headquarters is not far way from your camp, I’ve taken a ride with their pros (got dropped during the first hill) on their lunch time cycling loops – the backroads have it all – including wild bobcats; in Europe where do you prefer to train?

FABIAN: Tuscany. And Mallorca is good, but when I’m into training there I have to find someone to climb with. It’s ideal to find a place that’s not too hot or cold, 15-20 C degrees is perfect.

Fabian sporting the World TT Champ kit atop the Coit Tower hill at ToC07.

PEZ: And Switzerland? Training for the Classics: Do you look for bad weather?

FABIAN: I actually live and train at home a lot of the year in Bern, so it depends: If it’s always snowing or raining, I move; like last year in Switzerland it was horrible but this year the weather was fantastic. But it’s VERY important to train in bad weather. You learn a lot in cold weather – I was impressed how cold it was yesterday (Big Sur) and how much I can learn from it, the day was changing from hot to very cold and back, taking clothes on and off, it all uses up energy – and this prepares me better for other races.

PEZ: Have you ever come close to bonking in an early race? Do you feel the pain more at the beginning of the season?

(Fabian pauses and moans as if conjuring up a former world of pain):

FABIAN: (serious): Every race you go deep, but in the beginning of the year…it’s really hard…I need time to find out where my form is, to don’t lose energy…what I can improve on, how the weather affects me and adjust and put all what I learned ready for the Spring Classics. Like how much clothes or fuel or energy I need with good or bad weather, what I’ll use for cranks, or rings in certain situations, keeping track of all what I learn and using that to improve, to take off seconds…

Flying Fabian at the Solvang TT of Tour of California. His goals are later in the season.

PEZ: Fine-tuning the physical and technical for your season…so your strategies change every year?

FABIAN: Sure like for today, I’m not ready, but it’s a good start, to see how it’s going—it’s my first time trial of the year. Even the warm-ups aren’t the same, better not to have the same anyway. Maybe yes for the food and drinks but not for the training… and training for the beginning, middle and ending of the year is quite different.

Into The Tunnel
PEZ: You took a quick trip to the San Diego wind tunnel right before this Tour: What did you work on?

FABIAN: Ivan and Levi, they have been using this (tunnel) and are on the top for riding right now – I’m not! I’ve never tested the bike or me until now. In theory (wind tunnel) you see a lot, what can happen with your helmet and so on, so why not change something how I can go faster and push better on the pedals for more power? We saw where I can go faster, so today was important that I could test it out on the track (TT today) with a better aerodynamic position… but it takes time to make the adjustments.

PEZ: Did you gain unexpected knowledge? Does a more uncomfortable position give you an edge?

FABIAN: You can train like this but you can find a middle way, too.
What is important? To go faster, more aerodynamic but less power or more power and less aerodynamic? In the tunnel you can see when you gain by adjusting the seat or head, and when you lose even a fraction of time you lose the race, like when I lost the silver by less than a second in World Championships in 2005; maybe I lost because I was moving my head or bike? Last year (World Championships) I don’t move almost all the race – in the tunnel, you can see how you can maybe win or lose by small changes.

Training With Bjarne
PEZ: Fignon might have felt the same about LeMond, by not paying as much attention to developing his advantages probably cost him the race. Working with Bjarne and CSC rather than as the leadout man for Petacchi and Fasso Bartolo… was there a qualitative difference in training and relationships? How much of this has changed for you?

FABIAN: Very different from three years with Fasso Bartola! They were never interested in working this way with me, and Bjarne said, ‘yes, you’re here, you must try working in the tunnel, improve’… Bjarne pays attention to me. We have a really good understanding.

PEZ: We can only speculate where you would be if you spent those three years with Bjarne instead of hitched to Petacchi’s post. What colors are in your dreamscape for cycling in 2007?

FABIAN: Tour of Flanders and London (prologue for TDF): But I’m not really in my schedule for Flanders and this dream (is not) yet 100 percent. Last year was full of emotion with Roubaix and the Worlds – and my life has been changing very fast: My bike life and my personal life are changing: I’m now married, I have a baby – all of this in only a half year! I’m normal like everybody, not a machine; I have a lot of emotion, so I needed time to take it all in and to start new, and this winter I never really had the time…

Fabian let’s the emotion go on the podium of the ’06 TT Worlds.

PEZ: Having a family must motivate you differently?

FABIAN: Yes, it’s motivated! I’m now twenty-six, and feel good about where my life is and where it is going… I’d like to have more time to enjoy last year with all the changes and to be home but it works out so far.

PEZ: You don’t feel the pressure to defend your 2006 wins?

FABIAN: No…well yes, partly, that’s natural, but I’m focusing on other races, too. Now I’m looking ahead, to new challenges, even little ones. I’m a time trial specialist and I can win the one-day races, but I can climb when I’m skinnier but right now is not the time to think about that… maybe when I’m thirty after I win what I want to win now: Milano-San Remo, Flanders, Tirreno, Paris-Nice, even smaller stage races like the Tour of California,

PEZ: And winning the Tour de France someday?

FABIAN: Being in the yellow jersey was special, and I want to win the TDF – who doesn’t? But I’d have to prepare for that in the winter very differently… yes (reflecting)… but one thing at a time…

And so that’s Fabian: Methodical like a Swiss clock, but with so much heart and “good sensation” he isn’t your ostentatious Rolex, he’s more like a Swatch. In fact, Swatch should design one with him on it…in pure white with the rainbow stripes as a backdrop?

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