Based on his growing palmares Fabian Cancellara is arguably the best time-trialist and classics rider of his generation, and all that's left for the Swiss master is a grand tour win, writes Michael Tomalaris.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

It's easy to label Swiss legend Fabian Cancellara one of the best
cyclists the world has seen over the last decade, when one looks at his
magnificent career record, it's a point hard to argue with.

But
is he as good as Alberto Contador, and is it fair to compare him to the
Spaniard?

There's no doubt Cancellara is an all-rounder in every
sense.

He has won on relatively flat stages at the Tour de France
and Vuelta a Espana, he's conquered many one day Classics such as
Milan-SanRemo and the cobbles of Flanders and Roubaix.

Add to
this Switzerland's national time trial title on six occasions, not to
mention the national road race jersey he collected last year, and the
Olympic crown in Beijing in 2008, and here you have one of the most
extraordinary talents in modern professional cycling.

The
question remains: Is Cancellara good enough and strong enough to
challenge for overall honours in a Grand Tour?

The answer is yes -
but in an era when the depth of riding talent on the ProTour is at an
all-time high, realistically, it's a feat he would have a tough time
attempting.

He's had a good taste of what it feels like to wear
the TdF's yellow jersey in the first week of racing, but I wonder if the
thought of wearing the golden fleece into Paris as a Tour winner has
entered his mind?

At 29, Cancellara is relatively young and is at
the stage of his career where he can only get better and stronger for
much longer periods of time.

So, if that means challenging the
likes of Contador, then I say "go for it".

When July comes around
and Contador dominates the Tour as he's expected to, the images of
Cancellara's performance on the cobbles to Roubaix may be a distant
memory.

Some may argue he must match the performances of Eddy
Merckx before any comparisons can be made.

After all, the man
known as "The Cannibal" swept almost everything before him in the 1960s
and 1970s.

One day events and Grant Tours, Merckx won it all and
is still regarded as the greatest ever by those who saw him compete.

But
let's face it, the great Belgian raced in an era when the sport was
dominated by riders from only a handful of countries such as Belgium,
The Netherlands, France, Italy and Germany.

It was before the
wave of riders from English-speaking nations professional cycling
experiences today.

Why is that many label Lance Armstrong as the
greatest cyclist ever?

OK, he's the only man to have won seven
Tours, but to be fair, he's rarely contested many Spring Classics nor
challenged for gold at Olympic level.

In Cancellara's case it's a
different story - he truly is a complete rider.

After dominating
the Paris Roubaix with an extraordinary turn of speed and pulling away
from Tom Boonen and a host of other talented riders in the blink of an
eye, he wrote another line in his long list of achievements.

And
judging by his emotional arrival into the Roubaix Velodrome, this was a
sweet success story.

I wonder if he'll, one day, react in a
similar way when entering the cobbles of the Champs Elysees?