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"Also, on wet cobbles it is very different, you cannot use a high cadence like when it’s dry, how I like to do," Cancellara says

Photo: Sirotti

FABIAN CANCELLARA

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FRANK SCHLECK

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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09.07.2014 @ 20:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fabian Cancellara may be a specialist on the cobbles but the Swiss has never done a Paris-Roubaix in wet conditions. Having finished fifth in today's stage of the Tour de France, the Swiss lamented the rain that had made it impossible to use his usual high cadence.

 

Stage five unfolded as many had prophesied. For some, like the yellow jersey of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who finished third and gained time on his GC rivals, it was a day to behold. For many others, including overall favorite Chris Froome (Team Sky) who crashed twice and was forced to stop before the half way mark of the stage, it was a day to forget.

 

In the end the much hyped 155.5-kilometer stage was not a disillusionment of a few bitter critics – when the stage had concluded even Roubaix specialist Fabian Cancellara questioned the inclusion of cobbles in a Grand Tour.

 

“The race was a mess," he said. "When I hear in the radio what was happening just with our riders, I can imagine what must be happening with the others – in my opinion this does not have a place in a Grand Tour. It was completely different than in April because the field is so different. Also the wet roads made it very dangerous - the whole course was now dangerous.”

 

As the race wound down to the crucial kilometers a group of 16 emerged - the strong, but also the lucky, who managed to survive the tumultuous conditions. Fabian Cancellara was there, but it would be Lars Boom (Belkin) who would launch the winning move, surging ahead on the penultimate sector of cobbles with three Astana riders for company, including Nibali.

 

On the final sector Boom opened a gap and never looked back, soloing to the win. Nibali and his one remaining teammate, Jakob Fuglsang, would round out the top three, as Cancellara arrived with a small group a minute later.

 

“Rasty [Gregory Rast] helped me a lot," Cancellara said. "The problem was there was always a gap because someone was tired, or slipped a bit, and you could not pass him on the cobbles. When the three Astanas and Boom went, this is what happened. Also, on wet cobbles it is very different, you cannot use a high cadence like when it’s dry, how I like to do.

 

"It was already a situation where I was pulling, and when they went everyone was looking at me and Peter [Sagan] to do the work. Just me and Peter could not make the difference, so I had to calculate my energy. I did not want to pull, pull, pull and then the others pass me at the end, so I had to manage myself and play a bit or otherwise I would have been even more behind. Hey, chapeau to Astana who did a fantastic ride – they honored the yellow jersey.”

 

Before the race began the organizers cut two cobbled sectors from the route as the rain pummeled, reducing nine sectors to seven. It did little to curb the carnage as the wet roads created ice-like conditions, and the seven cobbled sectors - all in the latter part of the race - were slippery and dangerous, forcing the riders to race them like on eggshells.  One flat, or crash – or even delayed by a fallen rider – made it virtually impossible to rejoin the wheels ahead. 

 

Trek Factory Racing, like all teams, understood the weight of today’s stage, where the Tour could easily be lost. The team plan had Markel Irizar designated to help Haimar Zubeldia, and Gregory Rast playing double duty by assiting Fränk Schleck while also aiding Cancellara.

 

The great team effort safeguarded Haimar Zubeldia to a respectable finish, arriving just over four minutes later.  But Fränk Schleck would suffer an untimely puncture, causing him to finish almost eight minutes behind Boom; he rolled across the line muddied and certainly disappointed - but his spirit remained unbroken.

 

“We can say it was raining cats and dogs," he said. "It was just chaos out there. The team was awesome. We knew it was going to be hard and we expected the worse. We knew it was coming – but still, it was very bad out there.  I had a flat tire with around 25-30 kilometers to go and it took a while for the car to come.

 

"This does not change anything. We will continue to stick to our plan. We will still try and win stages, and we will keep fighting as a team. We have to keep our spirit up, the same as when we started, we will stick together. We owe this to ourselves, to all the team, all our fans, and to our sponsors.”

 

General Manager Luca Guercilen philosophically summed up the day, an epic and controversial stage that may be debated for some time, one where the team fell short of its desired goal of victory, but one where the team all finished intact, ready to race on.

 

“We were targeting this stage, and it did not end as we wanted, but Fabian was able to finish up there," he said. "There are others who lost a lot today so I think in a way we are still in the game to make our goal later.  It’s not a great situation where Fränk finished, but that’s the race. Now we have to look forward and see what possibilities lay ahead. I think that when the UCI allowed the race, then we must be ready to race it. There is not a lot to do or say, we had the obligation to race.”

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