The classics crystal ball: Fabian Cancellara on the futures of Ganna, Van Aert, van der Poel

Retired Swiss great spoke with VeloNews about Filippo Ganna's classics ambitions and the red-hot rivalry between Wout van Aert and Matthieu van der Poel.

Photo: Tim De Waele / Getty Sport

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

If there’s one man well-placed to speculate about the classics, it’s Fabian Cancellara.

The retired Swiss star amassed three victories both at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix as well as a win at Milano-Sanremo during his long classics clash with archrival Tom Boonen. And when he wasn’t busy doing that, Cancellara was busy amassing a haul of Olympic and world time trial titles that marked him as the absolute exemplar of racing against the clock.

So what does “Spartacus,” now 39 and busy running a rider agency business, make of the current classics scene?

VeloNews got the Swiss superstar’s take on Filippo Ganna, the Italian prodigy that has dominated on the track and in time trials through the past season, and now wants to turn his attention toward the classics.  As Bradley Wiggins told Eurosport, is Ganna “like a cross between Fabian Cancellara and Ian Stannard?”

And what does Cancellara make of the red-hot rivalry between Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel? Could the battle between the two cross-disciple greats emerge as the next great rivalry to follow the head-to-head between himself and Tom Boonen?

Time to gaze into Cancellara’s classics crystal ball.

Filippo Ganna: Italy’s ‘Baby Spartacus’?

Ganna can time trial and he can climb – now he wants to ride some rough stuff. Photo: James Startt

Cancellara: He has the capacity and he looks like a classics rider, and I’m super excited to see him on the cobbles. He might need some experience but who knows, maybe he doesn’t need it? Alaphilippe has done cobbled races already and done amazing things, at least until he crashed out [at the Tour of Flanders].

He has big potential, definitely. The thing difference between us is that my career was focusing on time trials from the beginning, whereas Filippo started on the track. I don’t know his program, but if he doesn’t overdo it on the track, he can do anything. At the Giro, he won stages in mountains, not only on time trials. That’s quite amazing and shows the capacity for more. For sure this Giro will give him a good foundation to continue that [form] in the next season.

Van Aert vs Van der Poel: The new Cancellara vs Boonen?

Van Aert and van der Poel could be rivals some time yet. Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Cancellara: It could be the next major rivalry like me and Tom, sure. It depends on what direction they choose to go, of course. But if van der Poel and Van Aert keep going the way they have been, they have the capacity to win all five monuments; their riding skills, the way Wout climbs.

They’ve been big rivals. [in cyclocross] since they’re young and that could go on. It’s really nice for the sport. Sport lives off those rivalries, and this one could go on for some time.

Trending on Velo

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.