That moment will never leave me - golden Rio swansong still fresh in Cancellara's memory

By Sports Desk April 14, 2021

Fabian Cancellara is not one for looking back, but the Swiss great will always be able to afford himself fond reflections of a glorious Olympic swansong in Rio.

Cancellara turned 40 last month and while many struggle after retiring from professional sport, the man nicknamed 'Spartacus' has embraced new challenges in and out of the saddle.

The 'Chasing Cancellara' platform enables cycling enthusiasts - ranging from beginners to semi-professionals - to compete against and pick the brains of the legendary double Olympic champion.

Asked how life after professional cycling is treating him in an interview to mark 100 days before the Tokyo Olympics start, Cancellara told Stats Perform News: "I'm busy, I have nothing to complain about. 

"I'm enjoying meeting so many different people from different places and backgrounds. It is great the human connection you experience and it's not just about winning.

"I take great satisfaction from seeing people cross the line maybe hours after a winner, they have got a little lost or taken a different route but they have had a great time, they did not give up and that is what matters.

"It gives me goosebumps to see that. In life we need to challenge ourselves and I'm so happy to be part of getting people to do that. I love being able to give something back."

While crossing the finishing line first is no longer the objective for Cancellara, it was the only thing on his mind in his pursuit of a second Olympic gold medal five years ago.

The seven-time Monument winner had decided to quit at the end of the 2016 season and did not fancy his chances of even getting on the podium in his final Games in Brazil after returning from his last Tour de France devoid of confidence. 

Yet a phone call from his coach Luca Guercilena changed Cancellara's mindset and from then on he was a man on a mission - which was accomplished when he blew his time trial rivals away on the 54.5 kilometre course.

Cancellara recalls: "When I came back from the Tour de France I was not confident and it had a big emotional impact with it being my last Tour. I had tears in my eyes when I left the Tour.

"I was flat and lacking confidence. Luca Guercilena called me and said I must get ready, he said my data was good and all of a sudden I had changed my mind completely because I couldn't have reached these numbers if I was not there (at the level of performance required). I said I want to win gold and if I do that in August, I will finish.

"I wanted to end my career on a high note and everything came together. The data was there, I had experience, luck, will and support."

Cancellara, who had won time-trial gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a silver in the road race, vividly remembers the race and standing on the top step of the podium.

He added: "It's such a different race. It's huge and the Olympics can crack you. For 54.5 kilometres you are purely focused on the outcome, you know there cannot be any mistakes.

"It was going to be an hour to one hour and 15 minutes of pure effort. I remember the two laps clearly, after the first I was quite a way ahead and Luca said 'remember it's two laps'!

"I was able to gain even more time and I remember it was such an emotional moment when I knew I had won gold. You feel proud of yourself, proud for Switzerland and everybody who helped me to achieve it. 

"No words are needed for that moment you hear the anthem on the podium. That moment will never leave me. I don't look back in life, as you have to move forward.

"I know I am a two-time Olympic champion and all over the world people know about the Olympics."

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