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 Few can rival Fabian Cancellara in cycling’s hall of fame, and still only 32-years-old, he may become the best we have seen in the last thirty years.

Photo: Unipublic / Graham Watson




07.11.2013 @ 08:46 Posted by Patrick Lorien


2013 UCI World Tour - The ten best pro-cyclists in the world


What follows is the fourth, in ten portraits, covering the UCI’s top ten World Tour riders, their 2013 season, and their future prospects. This article will be about Fabian Cancellara, the world’s seventh best professional cyclist.


Additional articles in the series: Richie Porte #10, Rui Costa #9Nairo Quintana #8Daniel Marin #6Vincenzo Nibali #5Peter Sagan #4, Alejandro Valverde #3, Chris Froome #2 & Joaquim Rodríguez #1.


Fabian Cancellara, Radioshack-Leopard – #7 / 384 points – 2013


Fabian Cancellara was born in 1981, in Bern, Switzerland, to Italian parents. He started biking rather late, after he as thirteen-year-old found an old bike in the family garage. The find made him immediately give up football, and turned his focus towards the two-wheeled sport.


He was successful from the very beginning, and in an interview to Swiss Info his old trainer Yvan Girard recalled that Cancellara was “head and shoulders above everyone else.”


As a junior Cancellara won the World Championsship twice (in 1998 and 1999), and again the year after – though this time in the U23 category (finishing behind Evgeni Petrov, and ahead of Michael Rogers).


Three short facts:


His nickname “Spartacus” is derived from his athletic and muscular build, and because he is the closest thing to a two-wheeled gladiator in pro cycling.


Is determined to at one point give the hour record a go, claiming the idea sprouted when he did a kilometer on the track in 1’ 06”, just fifteen-years-old.


He is fluent in English, French, German and Italian.


Mapei-Quick Step


Cancellara joined Mapei-Quick Step as a professional rider in 2001, and his first victory came quickly after: during the Tour of Rhodes he won the prologue, and subsequently also the overall race. This constituted his first victory as a Pro Tour rider, and it was no coincidence that it was his ITT skills that led him too it.


Cancellara stayed another year on Mapei, and collected a total of eleven victories; most of these were again due to his mastery of the ITT discipline.


Giorgio Squinzi, the head of the Mapei firm and renowned anti-doping crusader, later remarked that he got Cancellara (along with Pozzato, Rogers and Eisel) onboard the team so early because doping abuse in the U23 was considered to be even worse than among the professionals. It would also be Giorgio who pulled the Mapei plug after 2002, due to his disappointment in the direction that cycling had taken, i.e. doping.


Fassa Bortolo


Cancellara joined the Italian super-star-team Fassa Bortolo in 2003, hand-selected to help fast-man Pettachi with the sprints (during Cancellara’s three years on the team Pettachi would collect seventy victories, with the Swiss Spartacus playing a significant part in many).


Cancellara finished seventy-third in his first classic – the Tour of Flanders – and did thus not portray any of the skills he is infamous for today. He continued time trialing, won numerous, and collected his largest prize so far: the prologue of the Tour de Suisse, just a head of Oscar Pereiro, and his later directeur sportif at CSC, Bradley McGee.


2004 would prove to be first the year where Cancellara would reveal his diverse skill set. He won the sixth stage of the Tour of Oman, and upon realizing his triumph stated:


 "This winter I worked a lot on my sprint, and today it paid off. I've won my share of time trials, but never a road stage. This victory means a lot to me."


Cancellara then placed fourth in the Paris-Roubaix, and established that he could significantly more than win against the clock. Ending his season with a Tour de France prologue victory meant that Cancellara was a rising star within the ranks of cycling.


2005 witnessed a sprint victory at the Paris-Nice, numerous ITT victories, and a bizarre end to the season, when Fasso Bartolo stopped their sponsorship, and the new deal with Sony Ericsson proved to be the work of an imposter. The situation left all staff and riders unemployed.


CSC & Saxobank


Cancellara joined Danish based CSC in 2006, and quickly delivered his first classics victory ever in the Paris-Roubaix, just 25-years-old.


"I'm so happy, I can't find the words to describe it. I felt that the others were in difficulty, so I waited for the right moment to attack. I want to give a big thanks to my team; it wouldn't have been possible to win without them," he told the press.


It would be at CSC and Saxobank that Cancellara would establish his reign of time trialing dominance, and prove his skills in the classics.


From 2007 until 2010 Cancellara would become a world superstar, collecting every title possible in ITT’s multiple times, winning three monuments and countless stages, as well as one-day races. He could compete with the best in nearly all types of terrain, and he knew he was a champion. Simultaneously he manifested himself to be among the best domistiques in the world, and would help Carlos Sastre and the Schleck brothers to several significant victories and Grand Tour results.


In fact, his success was so great that he was in 2010 accused by former cyclist Davide Cassani to have ridden on a so called motorized bike, with the new motor Gruber Assist attached. Cassani showed images that seemingly revealed how Cancellara’s turned on the motor while riding and consequently displayed a great increase in speed.


The somewhat weird claim did not shake Cancellara’s confidence, as he replied in Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad:


“It’s so stupid I’m speechless."


UCI’s technical director Jean Wauthier agreed and stated to Belgian Het Laatste Nieuws that:


“The risk is simply too big. For him, his team and the bike manufacturers. A champion like Cancellara would not take that risk.”


The truth?


Extremely unlikely, but still unknown, because Wauthier added, “If there’s been some kind of fraud, there’s no way of proving it.”


It would have been a fantastic story if true though. Imagine being so successful on a bike that some people refuse to believe that you use the pedals…


2010 ended with the soap opera breakup between team manager Bjarne Riis and directeur sportif Kim Andersen, and Cancellara joined the ladder alongside with prominent riders Voight, Fuglsang and the Schlecks.


Leopard Trek and Radioshack


Cancellara’s 2011 team did not offer the same high caliber domestiques like he was used to, and his opponents had started to fear him so much that he was often riding alone against the peleton. This was reflected in the results.


E3 Harelbeke, a few stages here and there, second at Milan-San Remo, second at Paris-Roubaix, third at Flanders, and third in the ITT World Championsships.


99% of the World Tour riders would have called such a season extremely successful, but not Spartatus. To him it was a disaster.


2012 was not better (again, from his perspective). Following injuries and bad luck Cancellara had to settle with a Strade Bianche win, the Tour de France prologue, a consecutive 6 stages in yellow, and a second at Milan-San Remo. Poor guy.


He would be back though. And with a vengeance.


Fabian Cancellara’s 2013 season, and the reason as to why he is currently considered #7 in the world


Cancellara began the new season with a disappointing fourth in the Strade Bianche, and similar satisfaction with the third at the Milan-San Remo.


He then won the E3 Harelbeke in impressive fashion, after an attack of the Oude Kwaremont, and 35km on his own. This made him a huge favorite for the Tour of Flanders, and Cancellara repaid the confidence in him tenfold. During one of the highlights of the season he powered away, again on the Oude Kwaremont, with Peter Sagan as the sole follower. Another attack on the Patersberg Hill enabled Spatacus to enter the arena and celebrate a solo victory. Thumbs up from the Caesars.


During the later Paris-Roubaix – and again as top favourite - Cancellara rode like a coldblooded killer, and calmly countered the array of attacks thrown against him. In the velodrome he out-sprinted Sep Vanmarcke, and won his third title against the French paves, and most of the peloton.


He passed the Giro and Tour, and instead rode the Vuelta as World Championship preparation, picking up a ITT stage along the way. Team captain, and later winner Chris Horner, praised Cancellara for his contribution:


"Cancellara was amazing. There were probably seven Saxo riders on the front and Fabian just took me past all of them, then pulled for another 2k or more," said Horner. "For me it was the difference today and I thank him for staying in the race as long as he did after winning the time trial. He was unbelievable in the beginning of the mountain stages and amazing."


Cancellara was a favorite for both World Championships disciplines, but he really wanted what had yet eluded him, namely the road race title.


He clocked a third in the WC ITT, and seemed satisfied. Then he entered the road race with an extremely strong Swiss team behind him.


"A lot of people will be watching me, I know, but I'm not the only rider in the race. We're going to play our cards as we want to play them. We've been training together as a team in the last few days and so we're united and focused on doing well. We're a team and a nation, and we'll be riding for national pride," Cancellara told


The last mountain proved too hard for him though, but he still managed to fight his way back to a tenth place finish.


All in all a very successful season for Cancellara. But does he consider it such? Nope. He is far from satisfied.


He again tasted real victory, and wants more.


2014 and the future


Fabian Cancellara, one of few riders who have never appeared malnourished or skinny, looks more fit than ever, and has got a new strong team behind him. The new Trek Factory team looks well prepared, and may have put the turmoil of the past behind them.


Even though he has already won most races worth of winning he is still not satisfied. It must be this insatiable hunger for victory that drives him, and it could again become a year where the stars align for the Swiss Spartacus.


The hour record still lurks in the future, as does multiple attempts on the monuments, prologues, and ITT’s proper.


Few can rival Fabian Cancellara in cycling’s hall of fame, and still only 32-years-old, he may become the best we have seen in the last thirty years.


Cancellara’s Palmarès



1st  Junior time trial, Road World Championships



1st  Junior time trial, Road World Championships



2nd Under-23 time trial, Road World Championships



1st  Overall Tour of Rhodes

1st Prologue

2nd GP Eddy Merckx (with Michael Rogers)

2nd Duo Normand (with Michael Rogers)



1st  National Time Trial Championships

1st GP Eddy Merckx (with László Bodrogi)

1st  Overall GP Erik Breukink

1st Stage 3b

1st  Overall Tour of Rhodes

1st Prologue

1st ZLM Tour

1st Stage 1 Österreich-Rundfahrt

1st Stage 3 Ytong Bohemia Tour

2nd Chrono des Nations



Tour de Romandie

1st Prologue

1st Points Classification

1st Prologue Tour de Suisse

1st Stage 4 Tour of Belgium

1st Stage 6 (TTT) Tour Méditerranéen



1st  National Time Trial Championships

Tour de France

1st Prologue

Held  Yellow Jersey for Stage 1

1st Stage 1 Setmana Catalana de Ciclisme

1st Stage 4 Tour de Luxembourg

1st Stage 4 Tour of Qatar

4th Paris–Roubaix



1st  National Time Trial Championships

1st Stage 4 Paris–Nice

1st Stage 5 Setmana Catalana de Ciclisme

2nd Overall Tour de Luxembourg

1st Stage 3b

3rd Time trial, Road World Championships



1st  Time trial, Road World Championships

1st  National Time Trial Championships

1st  Overall Danmark Rundt

1st Stages 2 & 5

1st Paris–Roubaix

1st Stage 1 (ITT) Volta a Catalunya

1st Stage 5 Tirreno–Adriatico

1st Stage 1 (TTT) Vuelta a España



1st  Time trial, Road World Championships

1st  National Time Trial Championships

Tour de France

1st Prologue & Stage 3

Held  Yellow Jersey from Stages 1–6

Tour de Suisse

1st Prologue & Stage 9 (ITT)

2nd E3 Harelbeke



1st  Time trial. Olympic Games

1st  National Time Trial Championships

1st  Overall Tirreno–Adriatico

1st Stage 5

1st Milan – San Remo

1st Monte Paschi Eroica

Tour de Suisse

1st Stages 7 & 9

1st Points classification

1st Prologue Tour of California

1st Prologue Tour de Luxembourg

1st Stage 20 (ITT) Tour de France

2nd  Road race, Olympic Games

2nd Paris–Roubaix



1st  Time trial, Road World Championships

1st  National Road Race Championships

1st  Overall Tour de Suisse

1st Prologue & Stage 9 (ITT)

1st Points classification

Tour de France

1st Stage 1 (ITT)

Held  Yellow Jersey from Stages 1–6

Vuelta a España

1st Stages 1 (ITT) & 7 (ITT)

Held  Gold Jersey from Stages 1–4 & 7

1st Stage 1 (ITT) Tour of California



1st  Time trial, Road World Championships

1st  Overall Tour of Oman

1st Paris–Roubaix

1st Tour of Flanders

1st E3 Harelbeke

Tour de France

1st Prologue & Stage 19 (ITT)

Held  Yellow Jersey for Stage 1 & from Stages 3–6

1st Stage 1 (ITT) Tour de Suisse



1st  National Road Race Championships

1st E3 Harelbeke

Tour de Suisse

1st Stages 1 (ITT) & 9 (ITT)

1st Prologue Tour de Luxembourg

1st Stage 7 (ITT) Tirreno–Adriatico

1st Stage 1 (TTT) Vuelta a España

2nd Milan – San Remo

2nd Paris–Roubaix

3rd Tour of Flanders

3rd World Time Trial Championships



1st  National Time Trial Championships

1st Strade Bianche

Tour de France

1st Prologue

Held  Yellow Jersey from Stages 1–6

1st Stage 7 (ITT) Tirreno–Adriatico

2nd Milan – San Remo



1st  National Time Trial Championships

1st E3 Harelbeke

1st Tour of Flanders

1st Paris–Roubaix

1st Stage 7 (ITT) Tour of Austria

1st Stage 11 (ITT) Vuelta a España

Road World Championships

3rd  Individual time trial

10th Road race

3rd Milan – San Remo

4th Strade Bianche



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