Cancellara:”I knew it was going to be a special race since it was not everywhere dry”
A pile-up near the front of the peloton on sector 21 with 120 kilometers remaining of the 257-kilometers split the peloton, leaving two Trek-Segafredo teammates (Boy Van Poppel and Marco Coledan) on the ground and Fabian Cancellara in the second group behind a group of 23-25 riders.
Over 60 kilometers later the Mons-en-Pévèle sector 10 ultimately thrust the nail into his coffin. Cancellara’s wheels slipped on a muddy section on the sector he had pointed out as the worst of them all in a pre-race press conference.
“The first crash I had to jump into the field and back, the second was just unlucky, and then the third was just like ice-skating, and I could do no nothing, it was over. Roubaix was gone,” explained Cancellara.
Cancellara remounted and continued in pursuit, but the gap to the front was an insurmountable three minutes. The game had ended.
Paris-Roubaix is unpredictable. It’s what makes it special. The ‘hell of the north’ takes its victims, weak and strong alike, and often when least expected.
“In the big crash in sector 21 we were only a little bit back,” explained Jasper Stuyven. “But Etixx (Quick Step) and LottoNL-Jumbo pulled hard because they knew Fabian and Sagan were behind. It was a little bit chaotic for us at this moment: Boy and Marco crashed, Greggy had flatted, so we were a little bit all over.
“I had to start working pretty early, and I think everything was still looking okay when Fabian made his acceleration. Then when Fabian crashed, we lost everything.”
Cancellara: “Everything started well. Good sleep, good breakfast, Popo in the break so we had a perfect situation and then suddenly things turned differently.
“I knew it was going to be hard after the split, but also knew it is never over because Roubaix is a tough race. I just kept fighting. It was my last effort, and I knew that if you give up, then it is really over. I gave up maybe 10 or 15kms after my crash because I knew there it was impossible.
“I knew to stay up at the front, [to be] careful and really focused for every sector, but yeah…if you ride on second position or on last position, you can do nothing against a crash when it comes.”
It would not be the final spill for Fabian, who slid out again in the velodrome while grabbing a Swiss flag and saluting the fans. Fabian, however, laughed that one off.
“Somehow yes, but somehow no,” Cancellara responded when asked if ending his final Roubaix this way was hard. “Last week was harder (to accept), and I am just happy it is over. I was quite relaxed when I entered the velodrome. This was a different feeling than Flanders; there it was a battle to the end.
“I mean, even crashing on the velodrome in front of my fans I don’t care, because one crash more or less changes nothing for my career. I am just happy in another way, but not happy about the race. Just happy it is done.”
“I just want to enjoy with Popo, our last Roubaix together and his last race,” Cancellara added. “We want to make a loop on the velodrome, then go back to the hotel for a nice evening, celebrating, even though we have not won. But somehow that’s sport, that’s cycling – you can win you can lose, and we can still celebrate all that.”