Cancellara. Hard-man in search of soft skills.


Cancellara. A better lead.

Cancellara. A better lead.


Surprising admission: Fabian Cancellara admits he could be a better leader at Trek. The man is going soft — in a good way.

We’d always assumed that Cancellara was a born leader, a confident boss-man who said what he was going to do and then went out and did it: Flanders, Roubaix, World Championship Time Trial.

We never associated words like doubt or second-guessing or insecure or nervous or needy with Cancellara. He was and is one of those athletes you’d kinda like to be.

In fact, my wife, who has, shockingly, almost no interest in bike racing or any televised sport, will only watch the Tour de France for five minutes and only if there is a guaranteed close-up of Fabian.

She likes Fabian. A lot.

The  news that Cancellara isn’t a natural born leader gave him a certain charming humility. Spartacus has a soft spot. He is realizing that that touchy feely emotional skills are part of being the guy his teammates will follow into battle.

He didn’t get into detail about these soft skills but it was clear he understands the leader job isn’t just having a piercing glare, a powerful nickname and a long list of big wins.

Spartacus? Heart-acus?

“For example in training camp. When the leader arrives and is grouchy, when he is always too late at the meeting point and the last on the climb – then that works negatively on the team,” said Cancellara. “To be a leader doesn’t just mean to ride well and to take home the biggest wins. I have learned that.”

In the same interview, he admitted that at age 34, his powers of recovery aren’t what they used to be and that he is in his final two years of racing. The curtain is coming down.

Those implications point to another reason Cancellara is looking at upgrading his leadership skills. He needs a stronger, more motivated team to win that final classic or two. No more solo efforts.

Until 2014, Cancellara was capable of winning all by himself, simply riding away from people using brute force. Now as his power begins to fade a bit he must lean on his Trek squad to help get him the win.

This does not mean that Cancellara now has a bookshelf filled with leadership books or that he’s dragging around a copy of On Becoming A Leader by Warren Bennis. Nor is he registering for the Tony Robbins Leadership Academy in San Diego in August.

Robbins’ pitch to Cancellara and others: “Leadership is about having a vision bigger than yourself, bigger than this moment. Leadership is about making your vision a reality. For Tony Robbins, the definition is simple: A true leader is someone who inspires others to become who they truly are.”

And who they? Why they’re Fabian’s Domestiques. Essentially, Cancellara has a vision of winning Roubaix again and he needs to inspire his boys to become really, really, really good domestiques.

That is a leadership job alright.



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