'Spartacus' makes himself known

Fabian Cancellara described himself as 'the happiest man in the world" after winning the Tour prolog

Fabian Cancellara described himself as 'the happiest man in the world" after winning the Tour prolog

Not particularly fittingly for a rider who answers to the nickname 'Spartacus' - Julius Caesar would be a better bet - Fabian Cancellara's motto is a twist on the immortal "veni, vidi, vici" line. The only difference is that when Cancellara comes, he humbly looks around, and one day he hopes to conquer. Donning the yellow jersey on one's first day in the Tour de France isn't a bad way to set the sequence in motion. "My philosophy is to do as many races as possible, to gain experience, and to hope that one day I'll return to win," Cancellara said of the triumphant first day of his Tour de France career this afternoon. "Earlier this year I finished fourth in my second Paris-Roubaix, the first time I'd finished the race. Now I want to go back and win on the pav. I feel the same about the Tour de France: in three weeks I want to be on the Champs Elyses thinking: "one day, I want to be standing on the podium here." The reigning Swiss time-trial champion and former, double world time trial champion in the junior category, Cancellara is used to cultivating big ambitions. Once daubed with the fateful tag of "next Merckx", the then 19-year-old prodigy was snapped up by Mapei in 2001 and became a key element in their highly successful development squad. He joined Fassa Bortolo in 2003 and has finally flourished this year, shining in sprints, prologues and the Classics. Victories in a breakaway at the Tour of Qatar, a bunch sprint in Catalan Week, a prologue at the Tour of Luxembourg, then the Swiss national time-trial last week preceded this, his fifth win of the season. "It's a big season for me, full of different objectives. In the Classics, I was pleased with how I rode at the Tour of Flanders, then only lost in a sprint at Paris-Roubaix. That, though, felt like a victory. This prologue was also an objective, but so are the Olympics later in the year. Until this year I'd won a number of small races but was considered by some just a prologue specialist. I've slimmed down but also gained muscle mass, it's true, but that didn't necessarily affect my prologue performances. Now that I have won in so many different circumstances this year, I hope to have laid that myth to rest." "I was surprised to go this fast," Cancellara, who cites Miguel Indurain as his idol, continued. "As soon as Brad McGee came in nine seconds behind me, I realised how fast I'd gone. "I think I'm the happiest man in the world right now, but that's not to say I've fully realised what I've accomplished. Will I defend the jersey? Well, we have Petacchi in our team.we'll have to wait and see." With a physique worthy of his nickname - 1.86m tall and weighing 77kg -Cancellara realised early in life that cycling was his destiny. His sister, Tamara, competed in the junior world championships in San Sebastian in 1997. Cancellara started cycling, he says, inspired by the mountains surrounding his home in Bern and on a bicycle he 'found' in the back of his father's garage. "Sometimes the young riders get going faster than the older guys, who find their rhythm as the race goes on," is how Cancellara accounted for eclipsing Messers Armstrong, Ullrich and Hamilton tonight. That may be so, but if "Spartacus" reaches Paris in three weeks time, he'll be thinking about joining that company sooner rather than later.

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