Powering up the climb and seeing daylight behind him, Cancellara went into time trial mode to steadily gain time on the way into Harelbeke, taking the solo win by sixty-eight seconds. Chasing riders failed to organize into a unified effort and splintered into groups that were unable to catch the Swiss RADIOSHACK LEOPARD TREK rider.
“I did my job, I did what I had to do,” said Cancellara. “When you are in good condition you have to go for it because you never know what will happen next. It’s important to carry on and finish the job. With the crash last year this is a very special moment for me. A big thank you to my wife and family and to the entire team for supporting me during this time.”
Cancellara, 32, chalked up his third win in E3, adding to his growing list of cycling achievements, including Olympic time trial champion in 2008, four-time world time trial champion, two-time winner of Paris-Roubaix and wearer of the maillot jaune in the Tour de France for 28 days, just to name just a few.
Second place went to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in a photo finish over Daniel Oss of BMC.
Cancellara: “It was intuition to go on the Oude Kwaremont and just see if I could break down the group a little more. We knew the Oude Kwaremont was an important key in the race, as it will be in the Tour of Flanders, as we watched some days ago the finale of E3 of 2011 and 2012 on the computer. Also this is part of the preparation for the race.”
Cancellara continued: “You have to take it when you can as you never know what tomorrow brings. After my crash in Flanders last year this was my first race on this special ground. I saw that there were many Omega Pharma-QuickSteps in the front, so I decided to try something. I went alone and Dirk Demol kept telling me ‘keep on going’. It was a so hard but such a unique experience. Many things crossed my mind. This is a great win for me and for the team. Anything that will come now is a bonus. Also I send best wishes to Eddy Merckx who is in the hospital now.”
Cancellara will race again on Sunday in Gent-Wevelgem, followed the next week by Tour of Flanders. Fabian: “Will I be picked as the favorite now for Flanders and Roubaix? That’s life. The most important goals are indeed still coming but let’s celebrate first. We worked months for this. Now I can tackle the other races in a more relaxed way. I feel renewed confidence with this win but also renewed pressure as well. In the end it’s a victory and I know I’ve done my job.”