• Fabian Cancellara in action at the Tirreno-Adriatico (RCS Sport)Source: RCS Sport
In discussing the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial, a soon to retire Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) reveals the lactic body-mind battle that is key to his many successes, including this one.
Cycling Central

16 Mar 2016 - 10:13 AM  UPDATED 16 Mar 2016 - 10:14 AM

A combination of mental and physical strength saw Cancellara crush the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial, powering through the flat 10.1km course in a time of 11 minutes and 8 seconds (54.4km/h), and grabbing his fourth victory in six years.

Cancellara won the Stage 7 race against the clock in 2011 and 2012, finished second in 2014, and obliterated his winning time in 2015 by a full 15 seconds. In short, he has dominated the short time trial that has concluded the week long race since 2011.

Race report and highlights
Van Avermaet wins Tirreno-Adriatico by less than a second
With the motivation of a hungry and clean shaven Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) chasing him down from behind, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) pulled out a time trial performance that clinched him the Tirreno-Adriatico title by a single second over the world champion.

Despite announcing his plans to retire at the end of the 2016 season, Cancellara seems to be speeding up rather than slowing down.

"It was windy fast, short and, yeah, it felt good," said Cancellara, clearly enjoying some of his best form in a few years. "I mean it was very hard; it may have seemed easy, but it was not."

"I didn't do anything specific today, with such a short time trial I focused on pure power.  I went out like a mad man, with everything I had."

Cancellara set the fastest split time by nine seconds, and by the finish he added a few more for good measure, flying over the line 13 seconds ahead of second place Johan Le Bon (FDJ), and 15 more than rival Tony Martin (Etixx-Quic Step).

None of the riders to follow, including the final starters in the fierce battle of the general classification, would better the times of the top three early finishers.

"On one side of the course you enjoy to go 60km/h, but on the other side you have to really push the pedals, and it's painful," explained Cancellara about the non-technical, flat parcours.

"The speed bumps on the way out you hit at 60km/h and with the wind and cobblestones, you have to be careful and find the right line. They are not that fun," he said.

"It's a race of pure concentration.

"You have adrenaline the whole time, but you have to focus on pushing, focus on the road, the asphalt, focus on breathing, and also try to find a way to go over your limit.

“This is about the clock, about who goes the fastest, so you have to find a way to go on a level where you are normally not riding. It's an over-limit race." - Fabian Cancellara

It may come as some relief that even Spartacus finds time trialing tough.

"The last two kilometres look flat, but especially from kilometre two to one, it feels a little bit uphill, around 0.5 to almost one per cent gradient and that makes it really hard. The last kilometre is endless long; there it's hard for the head, and you have to push a lot.

"When I saw 1k to go my legs felt already empty, full of lactic acid, everywhere, almost out of your ears. You have to give all-in, all that you have, until the end because the finish line is what counts; there you can stop breathing and stop thinking."

The GC war ended in one of the closest finishes possible: Greg Van Avermaet squeezed out the overall win by one second, crossing the line seven seconds slower than Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) to clinch the blue leader's jersey. Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quick Step) rounded out the top three.

The next stop in Cancellara’s farewell season is Milan-San Remo on Sunday.

SBS will broadcast Milan-San Remo LIVE! Join us on SBS/HD or online from 12.30am AEDT on Sunday 20 March.