What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Talk: Fabian Cancellara

INTERVIEW: Spartacus, Champion, Hero… whatever you call him, Fabian Cancellara is a feared man on the cobbles, in a time trial or towing a bunch back up to an escape. Our man in Spain, Alastair Hamilton, caught up with the big man from Switzerland at Trek’s first training camp in December. As always he has lots to say on just about every cycling subject.

This time last year we had a chat with Fabian Cancellara, just up the road in Javea, and since then he has had one of his best seasons with a flurry of wins in the spring. A repeat of 2010; he had victories in E3 Harelbeke, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix making him the King of the Cobbles, or does it? We asked him about that and quite a few other things.


PEZ: How is the training camp going?
Not too much training, but we are really very busy at the moment, which is normal at this time of year: Busy with training and with all the other things we need to do. The Trek team is new, the bikes are new and it’s better now than later.

PEZ: How did you feel after a 5 week break?
I didn’t count the days or the weeks, I don’t know when but I restarted when I came back from holidays and I ride quite fast on the mountain bike with friends. Also some running, but I did all kinds of things; I was still quite busy still after the holidays with tons of stuff. So that’s why I took the sports, it was good to have an island of rest, resting the head; just going on the bike or mountain biking or jogging or with friends, yea all these things. The real training started after the training camp, but before everything was for pleasure and fun.

Roubaix - France  - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -
No pleasure and fun at Roubaix!

PEZ: Do you do a lot of running?
Well I’m not running at full gas and sprinting and stuff, it’s more a cruising running, I don’t say walking, but still it’s running. I was joining my wife with other colleagues and we took the baby on the kid thing [stroller. Ed], also to be part of a family thing, not to be just at home when she goes running and I take care of the kid at home, so we do it all together. We go out for the fresh air, for the little one it’s good and we are together with maybe three or four people and we go for about 45 minutes running, but easy.

PEZ: Did you have a family holiday?
Yes we had a holiday together straight after the Worlds, we went to the Middle East, it was sunny. Doing nothing and just chilling and cruising and just enjoying that’s what was really important. But times like those are not easy as your body is still going and then after one week/ten days you feel like getting more tired and then you really go down and you recover. But what really is ‘recover’? Is it really just doing nothing or is it sometimes better do a little something, that’s the thing. But I need really to do nothing and then sometimes it hurts a bit more when you then re-start, but for me that’s better, for then I know I’ve done a really good recovery. A full recovery without doing anything.

PEZ: Did you put on any weight?
A bit weight is normal, but all this food that went into my stomach in the end is not the food I would normally eat during the year, or when you have early aperitif on the beach, this is the time to do it because at home I don’t have early aperitif, but its normal to once you have to let go and just do what you want.

PEZ: On Twitter you said you eat a lot of chocolate?
Well it is normal now because its Christmas, especially it has to be Swiss chocolate of course, at the hotel there was Godiva chocolate from Belgium, but still Swiss chocolate is Swiss chocolate and that’s how it is, it’s the best, it would be like a Belgian saying Belgian fritter’s are not the best, it’s not good. But chocolate is one of those things that if you haven’t had for many, many weeks, you want it. The problem is after one I need another one. We don’t have any sugar stuff in the house, because if it’s there, it’s away in 5 minutes, if we have guest then we get, but otherwise we don’t have it in the house. We will get desserts for guests for dinner as we don’t eat fruit at night, because if you go to bed with fruit in the stomach it’s not good. No, fruit at home is only in the morning or in the afternoon, maybe at 4 o’clock but no later, if I take fruit in the evening I feel it in the night.

PEZ: But you don’t keep sweets in the house to avoid the temptation?
When I see crisps (US chips) and chocolate stuff, once in a while it’s hard to look at it. So it’s better that I don’t want to have any of it and if I do then I’ll go to the store and buy it or the gas station and have it.

PEZ: Tom Boonen said he was looking forward to having a duel with you in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix as the last few years you weren’t there when he won and he wasn’t there when you won.
Yea I have the same opinion, it’s not nice to see rivals on the ground and they are hurting and that’s one thing and especially plus with Tom, I respect him so much. If he’s not there or I’m not there, yes there are other riders but it’s not the same, especially in Flanders, especially in Belgium. I hope that both are again at the top level in the year and we can compete, but it’s not just him and me, there are others.

Tour of Flanders 2013:

PEZ: Which is your favourite race: Flanders or Roubaix?
For sure for me Flanders is my favourite. But of course those are my two races and I will go for them again and if you can bring at least one of those home you can be really, really happy. But still the goal is both and the goal is winning. They are two different races; Flanders is different to Roubaix and Roubaix is different to Flanders. We have full cobbles in Roubaix and then we have Flanders which is more technical. Also equipment wise you need even more luck in Roubaix than in Flanders, I meant you always need luck, but with punctures and crashes in Roubaix this stands out more, also in Flanders crashes and all this can happen, but Roubaix is different.

The two modern day kings of the cobbles, Boonen and Cancellara take on the E3 Harelbeke earlier this year – a race that Cancellara would go on to win.

PEZ: Tom Boonen has more wins than you in Roubaix and Flanders, are you jealous of his palmarés?
No, I take care of my own palmarés and to fill with as many victories as possible, but not everything is possible and not everything is easy to get. I’m working hard on everything and of course if there are more Flanders, Roubaix or Sanremo and other races I won’t say no. Is it because you win more that you’re bigger or you win less but you have another image that you are bigger, who is the best? Tonight we have the Swiss sports awards and is it the best that wins because of his palmarés of the year or because he won something special that no one else can win again or never has been won or is it because he is huge and big?

Wevelgem - Belgium  - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme
Fabian makes his move in Flanders.

PEZ: When you were younger you said you wanted to win the five big monuments, including Liege and Lombardia?
Dreaming is always good, but I think winning the five monuments are getting more difficult than maybe it was before. Because Lombardy is going in a direction where you nearly need to be a pure climber, almost. In the past, I wouldn’t say it was easier; it was a bit different.

PEZ: Is that why you agreed with the letter from Philippe Gilbert about the toughness of races? Like Sanremo was a sprinters race and now it’s for the climbers.
Yea I agreed with Philippe’s letter. It’s like everyone tries to make his race unique; steeper, special, longer, harder, crazier, but for what? It’s important that we have this circle that fits for everyone, that everyone can get something, now in Italy it looks exaggerated somehow and again in Spain. Do we really need so steep stuff, do we really need this and that, it’s the same with radio or without radio and many other things and stage races don’t have to be 250 kilometres long.

It’s enough when they are shorter, it’s like when we were in Poland we had so many kilometres and they didn’t see we had to travel and fly around and that’s something people forget, that this is there also. It costs a lot of energy to travel two hours to the next hotel and then the next morning two and a half hours again, you do 220 kilometre stage crazy hard and then have to do it again, again, again. This is also never looked at, we really want to find a balance from the rider’s side, from the teams, the organisers and the UCI, from all this we need to find a middle way. Because if we don’t; cycling will never get out of the other problems.

PEZ: Do you mean doping?
No, I mean Philippe’s letter, because doping isn’t a cycling problem, it’s a global sports problem. We have recently seen a list from WADA showing the percentage of tests in cycling and the other sports, but it’s not good to look at other sports too much, we have to look at our sport to do the best there.

PEZ: Tom Boonen has won more races, but maybe you are perceived as the best man on the cobbles, how do you see your wins?
I think, for myself, every win I did in all these races there was a magical moment for me. It’s not just that I sprinted away and I won by myself. I mean, every race I won or somehow the way I went away or when I went away or the way I won stands out for me more. That’s maybe for myself, that why I see they were big wins and I can’t say that was a better one or that was an easy one, they were all on a high level, all my victories have something that makes them stand out. It’s not like I’ve won 20 races, like how many did Peter (Sagan) win last year, 20 or 21, OK it’s best to win as many races as you can. On the other hand you might lose the memory of how you won it or how it happened.

In Gold at the Vuelta a España:

PEZ: But you’re not losing any sleep because someone has a better palmarés in the cobbles stone classics?
No, no, no, definitely not. I’m not jealous, I’m not unhappy, I’m doing what I have to do. It’s not up to me to decide, it’s for the people out on the road to decide. When they call me “champion” or when they call me “hero”, or whichever name, it’s that that means something when they say that. I’m not going to go out and say “I’m a champion” that’s not the words I would use. But when they call you a champion it means that they see you as a champion and it’s an honour to hear those words. Its different when they call you by a nick name, a nick name is not the same as when they call you, or when you read it, that you are a champion, that’s something special that stands out more actually. Other athletes are champions; Pele was a champion, Beckenbauer was a champion, many others from other sports are champions, so when you have finished and they say “that was a champion” or “he’s a champion” that’s a huge thing.

PEZ: Was last year’s victory in Paris-Roubaix against Sep Vanmarcke your toughest win?
Every victory is difficult, but this one was quite a hard one because everybody was against me and my team, my team was out somehow and I was just alone and I had to fight against all and all went against me. Vanmarcke collaborated well, but I don’t know if it was because he thought he was faster in the sprint or his team said to him “you are faster than him”, I don’t know. But when you are in this situation you don’t want to race for second place. He was quite optimistic, I was also optimistic, but I thought it was man against man if is faster or not, whatever. I can’t get rid of him and he can’t get rid of me and then we got on the track and it was man against man and I won it.

Paris-Roubaix 2013:

PEZ: After the finish you were lying on the ground in the track centre.
I was flat, I don’t even know how I got to the velodrome, I won’t say they flicked me, but they damaged me, the other riders attacked me all the time and I found myself quite far back and then suddenly I moved, one by one again. Before that I talked with Dirk Demol, I said “hey Dirk, I don’t have the key to next door, I don’t know what to do next.” Dirk looked at me and said, “You did everything you could and just go and do what you can do.” Play win or lose, I had no other choice and then after talking to him everything shut down, there was no left or right I just wanted to see the finish line in Roubaix, after that it was a mental thing. Slowly, slowly the radio said “they are all fucked, they are all tired, they are all dropped, you’re better than them, just don’t look back, just push pedals” and I thought how can I push pedals? When I look back and I was on the ground I just wanted air, I didn’t want to push pedals any more I just want to have my freedom for 5 minutes. Because it was hurting and I was so tired, that was why I was there, I had no comments from the team, they were just looking at me, I needed that because it was really, really tough.

Roubaix - France  - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -
“I didn’t want to push pedals any more.”

PEZ: You keep you cobble stones in the sauna?
Yes they are behind glass in the sauna. I just have one problem, I have no room for more stones.

PEZ: Do you think you lost too much weight before the World Championships?
No I did nothing wrong, nothing bad, just taking care of my eating, it’s my work, my job.

Fabian crossing the line in 10th at the Worlds

PEZ: Do you think the course for the Worlds road race was harder than everyone thought or was the weather a big factor?
It was the weather that was changing the whole entire race. It was a hard course, that’s obvious, that’s not a secret. I think that because it was a hard course it didn’t go like a really hard race, it was like a cancelation race on the track where you lose riders every lap, the devil, the elimination race. The race was one full explosion…and then boom! For my kind of rider it’s not what suits me, for me when it’s more; not attacking, but more intense, then the strengths of endurance come out. Also that weather, I was just lucky to still be on the bike, that was probably my gold medal probably not to be on the ground. Even in my situation that I had it as a big goal, I’m happy about that result.

PEZ: What about the rumours of the hour record?
I still won’t say anything or we will have new stories and more rumours, so I won’t go into anymore details. But it’s normal that on my level that when other things are there other than normal goals people like to hear another story. The papers, magazines and websites they have to be full of news, that’s normal. It’s there, but not at the moment, we have a new team, I want to prepare for the classics.

PEZ: But it’s interesting for us and the public that the top three time trialists are looking at the hour record.
The track is not the time trial, the track is different and we talk about other positions and other things. It’s something that cycling lost, the track is losing out at the Olympics with less disciplines, and the track is something that cycling needs. What will come we will see in the future.

TT action back in his SaxoBank days

PEZ: Do you know what your Watts power output would be for the hour? Or have you not gone into that deep?
No, so far I don’t know.

PEZ: And the bike?
Well the regulations are there, the UCI have them and you have to respect them or you would do an hour for nothing.

PEZ: Should there be two Hour records, a technically advanced one and the Merckx style one?
There is two hour records.

PEZ: Yea, but nobody goes for the other hour record. I was thinking of O’bree and how things were then.
I don’t know, I hadn’t thought of that. But many things in that period were different.

PEZ: Do you have a message for your fans?
Yes, pass the New Year and start the Year off healthy and wishing all the people a good Christmas.


So there you go; a catch-up with Spartacus, let’s hope his 2014 season is as good as the last and we see some great spring battles on the cobbles. Who knows, maybe we will see him conquer the five big monuments and the hour record?

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