Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara admitted to suffering an off day after he failed to deliver an anticipated stage victory on the Tour de France’s fourth stage time trial.
CSC-Saxon’s reigning world time trial champion could only finish in fifth place at a massive 33 seconds behind Germany’s Stefan Schumacher, who took the race lead after beating both Kim Kirchen and David Millar by 18 seconds.
Cancellara usually excels over the longer distances of 50-55km, and will be expected to make amends on the penultimate stage time trial of the race.
But on Tuesday, the Swiss was forlorn after spending 36 tough minutes trying to deal with windy conditions, and thoughts that things somehow weren’t going right.
“It wasn’t my day today. I couldn’t find the sensations and the rhythm I usually need to have a good performance,” said Cancellara, who wore the yellow jersey for a week last year after winning the London prologue. “There was wind, there were a lot of things, but I don’t know what it was. Others were quicker than me, that’s how it goes. I can’t change anything. I can only try and find what went wrong so I can make it better.
“I was not riding like I normally do,” he added. “Maybe it was the position (on the bike), the wheels, I don’t know. There were some new things on the bike, as well.”
Schumacher was not everybody’s favourite for the stage, but the German claimed he had been told by some in the peloton that he had a chance of causing an upset.
“A lot of guys told me this circuit was good for me because it’s really up and down, not too flat. And the distance, between 20 and 30 km is good for me,” Schumacher said. “I’m really happy because it was a good performance from me and I didn’t make any mistakes. Cancellara was the big favourite, even for me. So to be half a minute faster than him was a big surprise for me.”
Garmin team leader Millar, whose promising third place finish moved him up to third overall, at 12 seconds behind Schumacher and tied with Kirchen, was buoyed by his strong performance.
But he admitted Schumacher’s display had stunned him.
“He’s (Schumacher) already done some great time trials but for sure he wasn’t among the big favourites,” said the 31-year-old Scot. “I’m very happy. I’ve worked very hard for this time trial today. I’m getting close to my best, which is good.
“If I finished third it’s because the first two guys were better than me.”
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008