Tour de France leader Fabian Cancellara admitted on Tuesday night that he was looking forward to cracking open “a big bottle of champagne” to toast his second Tour stage win in four days. The Swiss added that he now intends to keep his jersey for as long possible, apparently regardless of how hard his team have to work to defend his 33-second lead on general classification.
“The cake is big – the race is 21 days long – and Team CSC is going to respect and defend this jersey,” Cancellara confirmed in his post-stage press conference. “It’s up to the other teams if they want to have something from the cake. I think we did the right thing today; the wind was in our face all day and no-one wanted to ride. Tomorrow should be a sprint, so we’ll try to have one more day [with the jersey]. If two riders go clear like they did today and everyone else wants to go slow, it’s good for us.”
Cancellara later elaborated on the reasons for what some had suggested may have been a deliberate go-slow by the peloton. By the time Cancellara crossed the line, the speedometer showed 35.8kph, having languished in the low 30s for most of the stage. Matthieu Ladagnous and Nicolas Vogondy even had the time – and the temerity – to stop twice for toilet breaks mid-breakaway.
“The wind was making everything difficult,” Cancellara said. “When you have a head and sidewind the whole day, no-one wants to ride hard. It’s a long day and you don’t want to go on the front and kill yourself.”
Cancellara added that the peloton had taken a pre-arranged time-out to greet former Tour boss Jean-Marie Leblanc in his home village, Fontaine-au-Bois.
If that was premeditated, Cancellara said that searing attack which launched him towards victory 800 metres from the line certainly wasn’t. “I wasn’t thinking about winning, I only thought about avoiding crashes for seven hours. I think that was the hardest last kilometre of my life.
Cance heads for the line © AFP Photo
“I wanted to be in good position at the end,” he continued. “Between the 1500 and 1000 mark, after last bend, I knew that it was important to be well placed. I saw riders on the right and left of the road, and I think I really surprised them. You can’t plan an attack like that, and you can’t do it every day. I opened up gas and only looked back one. I did the last kilometre like a track race…”
Two stage wins, the yellow jersey…now all Cancellara is waiting for is the suitcase which went AWOL before the start of the Tour. “I think someone’s taken it,” was Cancellara’s pessimistic guess this evening.
Want more analysis? Check out Ellis Bacon and Dan Friebe’s podcasts from stage 3 and and update on the stage 2 crash.