What a difference a fortnight makes. Pipped at the post at Milan-San Remo – again – Fabian Cancellara cut a dejected figure on the podium there. Fast forward to the Tour of Flanders however and, restored to the top step thanks to a third career victory, Spartacus looked a very happy man indeed. He had already fired a warning shot to his rivals with a fiercely determined ride at E3 Harelbeke, where he proved his form on the Kwaremont but was unable to recover the deficit caused by a race-splitting crash.
On this occasion, lady luck shone on one of Flanders’ favourite adopted sons and Cancellara took full advantage with a showcase of skill, power and experience. Having first matched Omega Pharma-Quickstep’s aggression to stay comfortably in the leading group, the timing of each of his attacks was enough to shed several rivals at crucial times. Unperturbed by Stijn Vandenbergh and Greg van Avermaet’s attack, he remained patient at critical times too. The Oude Kwaremont is Spartacus’ playground, and he once again obliterated the race on it. And his expert timing showed at the finale, timing his sprint to perfection and enjoying the celebrations on the podium for a second straight year.
Victory at Paris-Roubaix next week now means Cancellara could achieve an unprecedented third career ‘double’. Alongside Tom Boonen, he is without doubt one of this generation’s finest Classics riders. Win in Roubaix, and he will lay claim to such a pedestal alone.