above: Fabian wears yellow during 2009 Tour – Courtesy AFP
After watching Fabian Cancellara’s impressive double at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix over the past two weekends I have been wondering if he is a legitimate threat to Alberto Contador at this years Tour de France. Italian coach Aldo Sassi believes he could be, and I would have to agree. Stephen Farrand takes up the story.
Aldo Sassi believes Swiss can be like Indurain.
Cancellara has yet to confirm if he will target Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, but has stated he’d like to one day win all five of cycling’s big Classics – the so-called ‘Monuments’ – and the Hour Record seems a natural goal for one of the best time triallists in the history of cycling.
However, Italian coach Aldo Sassi believes Cancellara could aim even higher, suggesting that Cancellara could be a Tour de France contender if he loses some muscle mass and further body fat.
As the coach of World Champion Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso, Sassi knows what it takes to identify and hone Grand Tour contenders. He was also the coach of the Mapei team that signed Cancellara to the Mapei development team in 2001, along with Filippo Pozzato, Michael Rogers, Dario Cioni, Charlie Wegelius and Bernhard Eisel.
“When we signed Fabian, we knew how talented he was because he’d already won two junior world time trial titles, but when we analysed his laboratory results, they convinced us of his huge potential,” Sassi told Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday.
“For a rider like Fabian, raising the bar is not about going for the hour record, I’m convinced he can go for the major Tours. Perhaps not the Giro d’Italia, but the Tour de France for sure. We signed him to the Mapei development team with that goal in mind. We saw what he could do in time trials and we thought he’d could win short stage races and eventually become a rider for the major Tours.”
Sassi reveals that he often teased Cancellara about his weight and diet, even when he was no longer at the Mapei team. And Cancellara has never forgotten Sassi’s theory about him having the potential to win the Tour de France. He recently send a personal text message to Sassi, signing off as the rider who ‘five kilos lighter could win the Tour.’
Cancellara dreamed about winning the yellow jersey at the Tour de France as a boy and showed that he can win stage races last year by winning the Tour of Switzerland. Miguel Indurain’s run of five Tour de France titles in the 1990s was also evidence that strong time trial ability can be the basis of a three-week win.
Sassi explained to Gazzetta dello Sport how Cancellara could become a Tour contender if he lost some of his muscle mass. He made a comparison with Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins, who has similar power outputs and became a Tour contender in 2009 after losing weight.
“For the Tour, he’d have to lose six kilograms, of which only two or three would be muscle, so that he doesn’t lose his power,” Sassi said. “If he weighs about 70kg, like Wiggins does, I’m sure he’d be competitive. He’d be an Indurain type of rider.”
Courtesy Stephen Farrand