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Fabian Cancellara’s season to forget continued Monday when, after several days of suffering from stomach problems, the Swiss rider withdrew from the Vuelta a España.
As was the case on Sunday’s second stage, the Trek Factory Racing rider got into difficulty and was dropped. While he was able to get through stage two, albeit almost half an hour down, there was no such outcome on Monday.
He found himself the same amount of time behind during the stage and gave up the race prior to the finish.
“It was probably one of my hardest days on the bikes today,” he said afterwards, vexed his race had ended far earlier than anticipated.
“I wanted to keep going, I did not want to stop, but Josu (Larrazabal, the director sportif) told me to stop because I was already out of the time limit and it didn’t make sense to continue.”
The withdrawal is the third major frustration to hit him this season. After starting well with victory on stage two of the Tour of Oman plus a win in the final time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico, he crashed in the E3 Harelbeke at the end of March.
The fall resulted in two minor fractures in the transverse processes of his lower vertebrae, with the injury ending his spring Classics campaign prior to his major goals of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
He worked hard to recover from that and rode the Tour des Fjords and the Tour de Suisse prior to the Tour de France. He raced into the yellow jersey on stage two, having netted third on days one and two, but then crashed again on stage three and suffered an almost-identical injury.
This put him out of the back long before the final climb of the Mur de Huy, contributing to his loss of yellow. It also meant that he was a non-starter on stage four.
Cancellara again worked to rebuild, hoping to use the Vuelta a España to ride into form and to clock up some solid results prior to the world championships.
However his illness meant that he never got going in the race.
“After a year like I had so far I didn’t want to stop,” he said, speaking of his commitment to try to battle through.
“It was like when I was in the Tour, I was alone on the road, and I had so many flashbacks from the whole entire year. That was why I kept on pushing.
“But in the end it’s your health that counts the most and if you are not 100% you feel it. I don’t know how many percent I had, but I was completely empty.”
His programme is uncertain, and it remains to be seen if he can get into the form he wants to be able to compete at a high level in the world championships.
Right now, though, his thoughts are on exiting the Spanish Tour.
“It’s sad to abandon the Vuelta, a pretty big disappointment,” he said. “It can always get worse, for sure, but I did not expect this, having this again.”