Fabian Cancellara wants more wine.
One of the spoils of E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke is that the winner takes home his own weight in wine. At roughly 180 pounds for the Swiss champion, that works out to six cases of vino.
Well now, he’s got twelve cases in the wine cellar. Despite mechanical problems and a bike change, Cancellara dominated the race and solo’d to victory a minute ahead a chase group that kept losing time.
He launched a devastating attack on the Kwaremont that no one– not Hushovd or Haussler Devolder or anyone else in fantastic form could answer. It was a terrifying flash-back to last year in Paris-Roubaix when Cancellara crushed his rivals.
“It was very important,” he said. “I need victories, I’m hungry for them. Getting a win like that is the last part of your confidence.” Hungry and let’s add thirsty and both are now taken care of.
“I will have a bit more pressure even than last year. With an extra victory in your pocket it gives you a bit more confidence. I needed this victory ahead of the Ronde, although big races are different to this kind of race,” said Cancellara past-race.
The first meaningful break was a group of eight wine enthusiasts. At the 80km mark, it was Aliaksandr Kuschynski (Katusha), William Bonnet (FDJ), Stuart O’Grady (Leopard Trek), Jurgen Wandewalle (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Sebastien Hinault (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Cervélo), Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Ben King (Team Type 1) doing the honors. They managed a two minute advantage before things ramped up and people starting dying.
Then it was time for Jonathan Vaughter’s Garmin-Cervelo team to get serious. (Vaughters is also a wine aficionado and by the way we’re hoping the prize isn’t Belgian swill.) Andreas Klier hammered it, then Thor Hushovd went to work on the Paterberg and split the peloton apart with his bare thighs.
Meanwhile Garmin-Cervelo’s Heinrich Haussler was another 45 seconds up the road with Niki Terpstra (Quick Step), Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and Jurgen Roedlandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto). Things looked promising in a chessboard kinda way for the argyle guys — except for one huge explosion that blew their hopes to pieces.
Looking like he had a motor in his bike and special hi-tech bearings, Cancellara blasted up the Kwaremont and then caught the Haussler group with a hand from O’Grady, who’d dropped back for his captain. No help required. It was even easier than stealing a truck load of team bikes.
With 16 kilometers to go, it was Cancellara making his trademark unstoppable “I Am Now Leaving Everyone” move, powering away and dropping into time trial mode. Goodbye, see you at the finish, bring me my wine decanter.
Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma – Lotto) and Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) rounded out the podium but they were mere spectators like everyone else at E3. Jonathan Vaughters summed it up in three words. “Wow. Fabian. Respect.”
Flanders is coming next weekend and the Fear of Fabian is spreading fast. “I just learned today that I’m ready,” said Cancellara. “With an extra victory in your pocket it gives you a bit more confidence. I needed this victory ahead of the Ronde, although big races are different to this kind of race.”
Cancellara used to E3 to strike a huge psychological blow. He’ll be toasting himself tonight.