Cancellara prepares for the classics with a victory in Mallorca

Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) got his final year as a professional off to the best possible start when he came out on top in the hardest race of the Challenge Mallorca, Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana. The Swiss made his move on the hardest climb of the race and after making it to the front on the penultimate descent, he took off in a solo move before holding off an elite chase group that was led to the finish by Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal).

Following his crash-marred 2015 season, many have been questioning whether Fabian Cancellara can return to his top level for his final year in the pro peloton. After just three days of racing, he has silenced his critics as he won today’s very hard Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, the hardest race of the Challenge Mallorca series, with a marvelous solo ride.

On paper, the hilly course should be a bit too hard for a big guy like Cancellara and its seven climbs were expected to be allow the climbers to come to the fore. However, the Swiss defied the odds and proved that he is in excellent condition right from the start of the year.

Already yesterday Cancellara indicated his good form as he sprinted to sixth in the hard Trofeo Andratx and today he was back in the mix when he joined a move early in the race. That was ultimately unsuccessful but a sign of things to come as Cancellara made it into a 9-rider chase group that crested the summit of the famous Puig Major climb just behind four leaders.

Cancellara reached the front on the descent and then took off in a solo move. Behind, the favourites were playing their cards and Movistar and Sky were chasing full gas. However, they were unable to make much inroads on the unstoppable Swiss who was able to keep a 50-second advantage for a long time.

Sky had numbers in the small chase group and managed to reduce the gap to around 30 seconds on the final small climb that summited just 5km from the finish. However, when they again hit flat roads, they failed to get any closer to Cancellara who had plenty of time to celebrate his win.

Instead of fighting for the win, the pre-race favourites had to sprint for second and like yesterday it was Michal Kwiatkowski coming out on top. The Pole beat Tiesj Benoot, yesterday’s winner Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) and defending champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to pick up another runner-up spot in his second race for Team Sky.

The Challenge Mallorca comes to a conclusion tomorrow when the riders tackle the Trofeo Palma. It is a mostly flat race that includes a late category 3 climb but as the race ends with two laps of a flat 1km circuit in Palma, the sprinters are expected to come to the fore.