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"I ride my bike because I want to win"

The time machine: Fabian Cancellara gets ready to race the clock in Mendrisio, canton Ticino

(Keystone)

Cyclist Fabian Cancellara tells swissinfo.ch a decision to award him an Olympic silver medal instead of a bronze does more for the record books than his pride.

The Swiss placed third during the men's 245.5km road race during the 2008 Beijing Games but was bumped up to second this week after Italian Davide Rebellin was stripped of his silver medal for doping.

"For me, the bronze was already gold," he said. "Making it a silver is great but until I get an official statement – and I mean one that comes through me – I can't say anything is for sure."

Cancellara, who also won gold in the Olympic time trial, said he's considering taking a shot at breaking the record for the most distance pedalled in one hour. The Team Saxo Bank speed specialist also talked about why he would never cheat, the thrill of winning a home race and the most potent weapon of all.

For now, however, the 28-year-old from a village near Bern said he can afford to lay off the training – but added there's no doubt he'll soon be getting into gear for the season ahead.

swissinfo.ch: Is this the time of year that Fabian Cancellara gets to sit on the couch, eat buckets of ice cream and pack on the kilos?

Fabian Cancellara: I don't really sit on the couch. I lie on it. But there's not so much time to just hang out. The whole season I'm on my bike but I have family and am responsible for more than just pushing the pedals. It's part of the game, trying to find balance. I know when it's time to focus on something and when it's time to stop. I've had about five weeks off the bike.

swissinfo.ch: How long before you get going again?

F.C.: I've already started with some running, going to the gym, riding my mountain bike. Today I went out for three hours on the road. It's really hard at first. The most important thing is to start a new season when you feel the fire. When that's there, then it's easy to get out in bad weather and ride. Right now the fire is not strong enough to start a rocket.

swissinfo.ch: Do you know what the first race will be?

F.C.: Like every year the focus is for the spring but I can't say which way I am going to go. I haven't seen the race programme yet but I'll definitely do some good weather races and the classics (like Milan-San Remo or Paris-Roubaix). There's a lot of work to do before then. Last year I had big problems at first. I got sick, crashed, didn't find my form, had technical problems. All of that set me back. The effort is easy to recover from; it's harder is for your mind to recover.

swissinfo.ch: What about going for the most kilometres pedalled in one hour? People say you're a favourite to break the 50km barrier.

F.C.: I've heard so much about that [the current record is 49.7km by Ondřej Sosenka]. For sure I want to do it, but not now. This is going to happen but to do something like that you need a special programme and I'm not ready for it. Where and when I do it depends on many things.

swissinfo.ch: The other big news is your Olympic bronze turning into silver. This isn't the first time you've been bumped up because someone else was doping.

F.C.: You're talking about [an earlier] Tour de France. When everything is official then for sure I'll be happy. But the emotions are maybe more important than the medal. When you're standing on the podium at the Tour de France or you win the Worlds in your home country, that's the best. For me, the bronze was already gold. I can't have more pride.

swissinfo.ch: How do you feel as a pro cyclist when people cheat?

F.C.: It's not fair. Everyone is working so hard and giving their best. But it's like in life. You always find people who are cheating. You have to be honest for yourself and be happy with what you do. I think it is better to stop than to cheat. Cheating is the most unfair thing you can do to your competitors.

swissinfo.ch: Have you ever been tempted? If people around you are doping, at the end of the day...

F.C.: I know it's hard but I try to give my best and to show the positive and better side of cycling. Cycling is going to be better. It already is. There are a lot of controls now and the system is working. That's good. But I'm an example for people 365 days of the year. You are always an example: when you are at home or shopping or whatever, people are always watching you. You're a personality. Kids and sponsors, they're all looking up to me.

swissinfo.ch: I once read that Lance Armstrong has an unusually large heart that can pump huge amounts of blood to his muscles. Do you have any physiological gifts?

F.C.: OK, I have a big lungs and a lot of muscle, but what counts is will. Everybody has talents to be a bike rider. But talent to be really good without this will? I don't think so. Ask riders what goals they have or why they ride their bike. I ride my bike because I want to win.

Tim Neville, swissinfo.ch

Cancellara outtakes

On winter training plans: "I'll head to Fuerteventura [Canary Islands] for a training camp where it will be warm, but I can't wait to start training there. I have to be in good shape before going."

On the next race he'd like to win most: "Flanders [a classic race in the spring]. But for the moment I really can't say for myself that I want to win this or that. I need a bit more time."

On swapping bronze for silver: "Everything has been on the news but I haven't received an official statement. It's a lot of work to get everything figured out."

On the mental side of cycling: "You have the legs, the engine and then the brain, the chip. Without using your head you can't spin the pedals. You'll never be a good bike rider without the focus."

On having Lance Armstrong hot on your heels: "You have to be able to handle the pressure. In the end, what counts is every hundredth of a second. You can't stop pedalling. He did and that's not good."

On being a weak climber: "I can't do much more. I need to develop more but you can't have everything and I'm satisfied with what I've done. Climbs will never by my first thing."

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Trophy Case 2009

1st: World Championship time trial
1st: Vuelta a España, time trial, stage 7
1st: Tour de Suisse
1st: Tour de France, prologue
1st: Tour of California, prologue
2nd: Tour de France, stage 18

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