Rider of the week
It has been a tough first half of the season for Fabian Cancellara, although the start was very good, with stage victories in the Tour of Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico. Unfortunately for the Swiss powerhouse, he crashed and injured in E3 Harelbeke, missing his biggest goals of the season, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Then, after coming back, things weren’t as smooth as he had hoped, the end of June finding him without a win in the three races he had been targeting: the two Tour de Suisse invididual time trials and the road race at the National Championships.
Things didn’t seem to become smooth not even once the Tour de France got underway, as he finished in third position the opening stage, a 13,8-km long individual time trial in Utrecht. But the Trek Factory Racing cyclist kept on believing that the tables will finally turn around and sensed that a first opportunity will be stage two of the race, during which heavy winds and rain were expected, as the peloton was heading towards the North Sea.
Staying all the time at the front during a stage in which the wind and rain wreaked havoc, he eventually became part of a main group that included GC contenders, sprinters and Classic specialists alike, the 34-year-old patiently waited for the last 200 meters, letting the sprinters to make their move, before responding. Then, thanks to a strong sprint (69,16 km/h) – reminiscent of the one in the 2011 World Championships, where he finished fourth – but also to a blunder made by Mark Cavendish, he came third and got himself some bonifications, which helped him climb to first in the standings.
On Monday, Fabian Cancellara will enjoy his 29th day in the yellow jersey, a record for a rider who hasn’t won the overall classification. He also ticks his sixth Tour de France in the lead, which puts him on par with André Darrigade and Eddy Merckx, with only Bernard Hinault in front of him (8 editions). Now, after adding Zeeland to the list of place where he took the most important jersey in cycling (Liège twice, London, Monaco and Rotterdam being the other), the Swiss can look with much more serenity to the second goal he has in the race: win a stage, his ninth in the Tour de France.