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Fabian Cancellara pulls out of World Championships

Swiss star says recovering from injury and illness three times in a year is too much - but acknowledges last chance has gone

Fabian Cancellara has pulled out of the forthcoming UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia, almost certainly his last chance to add the rainbow jersey in the road race to the four that he has won against the clock.

The 34-year-old Swiss rider retires at the end of next season, and in confirming today that he won’t race in the United States also expressed regret that he will not be able to help his Trek Factory Racing team in the team time trial.

As a three-time winner of the Tour of Flanders – he has also won Paris-Roubaix on three occasions, and Milan-San Remo once – a fully fit Cancellara would have been expected to be among the favourites in Richmond on a course that features sharp climbs and cobbles.

This year, however, he has twice suffered fractures of two vertebrae in crashes, the first at the E3 Harelbeke in March, the second at the Tour de France in July while wearing the race leader’s yellow jersey.

Last month he started the Vuelta with the aim of riding himself back into form for the Worlds, but a stomach upset forced him to abandon after just three stages and he has now acknowledged that riding in Richmond is out of the question.

“Physically I could probably go on and race the World Championships,” he said. “But it’s the mind that controls the body, and I don’t have the will to go through the whole come-back thing once more after the rollercoaster that this season has been.

“It's a matter of focus. Dealing with a serious injury during the course of one season is not easy, and I have had to do it twice already this year. It’s mentally very challenging and it drains your energy. I don't have batteries anymore for a third come-back in one season.”

Reflecting on the past week or so, he said: “Since I returned home from the Vuelta I have been questioning myself a lot. It's more than just a lack of motivation. It goes deeper than that. It feels impossible to load the batteries enough to break through that wall in your head."

"The team and Trek were very supportive for me and there were constantly different scenarios on the table that would lead to Richmond. But in the end we all agreed that it would be better to end the season here and now, take a break and then start focusing on new goals.”

"I’m sad not to be racing the Worlds, of course. The TTT is an important race for our team and everybody knows how much I love racing for Switzerland.”

Next year, the UCI’s flagship event heads to Qatar, and Cancellara said: “The Worlds next year don't suit me very well, I'm not a sprinter. This could have been my last chance, but then again, the way this season is going for me, not really."

Thanking his team, sponsors, and family, he added: “As an athlete you can feel very much alone when bad luck strikes, but I am very happy to have all these people supporting me year round."

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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