Cantwell… on his way to Roubaix
Two days before he left Monaco, destination Belgium – for his first bout with the two major cobbled monuments of cycling, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – Jonathan Cantwell proposed a quick chat on Skype before a training session. With his rendezvous with his Tasmania riding companion for the day, Matt Goss, he flicked on the computer and gave RIDE an update on the early months of his second season with the Saxo-Tinkoff team. He was optimistic about his debut in the Belgian Classic contested last Sunday but netted a DNF. From there it was onward to the mid-week Schelderprijs in Belgium in which he finished in the front group but in 15th place in the sprint won by Marcel Kittel. The next day it was onto the pavé of northern France for a reconnaissance of the route to Roubaix.
Here is the transcript of our quick chat with the 31-year-old who is about to tick off another of his career objectives…
Cantwell Interview – “Ticking all the boxes…”
27 March 2013
Jonathan Cantwell: “I’ve been busy, doing heaps of racing and got a lot of races coming up as well so now is a good time to talk before it all kicks off with Flanders, Schelderprijs and Roubaix.”
RIDE: It seems, from your reaction to being selected for the big Classics of Spring that you were surprised… or perhaps even flattered to be called up.
Jonathan Cantwell: “I had in the back of my mind that I might have received the call-up. We do get our forecast in advance about what our race program is going to be but I was a little bit disappointed in the first place not to be on the initial start list but with injuries and illnesses – others getting sick and crashing and stuff – there was a positive for me at least. It was good to eventually get the call and be told I’m going.
“I got the call for Milan-San Remo about a week before it happened.
“Ultimately I’m flattered and excited.
“There are three races that I really want to do in my career: the Tour de France [which he did for the first time in 2012], Milan-San Remo [which he did in 2013] and Paris-Roubaix [which he’ll start on Sunday] – so it looks like I’m ticking all the boxes.
“I want to get through Flanders, have a good race there and do my job well but going into these races when you haven’t done them before is tough. But in the years to come – if my career keeps going in the way it is – then I’ll have had the experience and know what to expect and then I can prepare a little bit better for them.”
RIDE: I heard that you got quite sick from Milan-San Remo. What was that experience like for you?
Jonathan Cantwell: “The weekend beforehand we had a race up in Holland called Dwars door Drenthe and it was minus-five and raining for 200km. The following week, I was kinda on the verge of getting a little bit sick. I actually started a course of antibiotics on the Friday, two days before Milan-San Remo. I went into that race thinking I might have been a little under-done; I was a little bit crook, was on antibiotics, and so I wasn’t expecting to finish the race.
“You obviously have heard and seen the conditions of Milan-San Remo which were absolutely brutal. It was something that you will tell your grandkids about in many years to come. I’ve got some pretty cool photos of me on my bike where the snow had just covered my helmet… but I got through it not too bad and did my job for [Daniele] Bennati – had him in a good position going up the Cipressa, and my work was done.
“To get through that race and to finish it was pretty cool. But after that, I was in a bodybag for a couple of days just like a lot of guys.”
RIDE: There has been speculation that some people might have been axed for the whole Spring because of the conditions that day. But it seems like everyone is coming away from it okay…
Jonathan Cantwell: “I was already a little bit sick so I was already at the worst point of what I could be. And a couple of recovery days helped a lot.
“I was surprised because the following weekend I was at Criterium International and I ran third in the opening stage; so it was a sign that I’d recovered reasonably quickly which is something I didn’t expect. But a lot of guys were sick for a long time after Milan-San Remo.
“The good thing for me was that I had another race called Dwars door Vlaanderen on the Wednesday after Milan-San Remo and I told the team, ‘I can’t got and do that!’ And thankfully I didn’t because the weather was just brutal – well, it’s been brutal the whole year really. Already a few of the Belgian races have been cancelled because of the conditions and some have still been held but were amended because of the weather. I think a lot of the guys are really going to struggle and take a lot longer to get better.”
RIDE: Let’s talk about the Criterium International sprint in Porto Vecchio because there’s a photo of you taking a big dive across the road in front of Nacer Bouhanni… have you seen that shot?
Jonathan Cantwell: “I was on a spare bike and it looked like my chain actually came off – from the big chainring to the small chainring – so it wasn’t a deliberate move to take anybody out or close the road or anything like that. It was basically only five metres before the finish line; it was such a sudden reaction that I didn’t know what happened. It did look pretty erratic, that’s for sure. I was just happy that nobody crashed or anything.
“It was a hard finish. It was a one-kilometre drag uphill about three per cent and it was really tough.
“I wasn’t one hundred per cent healthy and it took it out of me a bit.”
RIDE: And you were racing against an inform Theo Bos…
Jonathan Cantwell: “Yeah, he’s fast and he’s a great guy. He’s won a few races this year. He actually lives on Monaco as well so I went for a ride with him the Monday after Criterium International and we had a chat about the race. He’s quick and he’s got a great team around him with Graeme Brown and a few others – those guys have really got their train looking pretty strong.”
RIDE: And so what’s the plan for Saxo-Tinkoff for Flanders and Roubaix?
Jonathan Cantwell: “We’ve got a really good line-up with both Bennati and Matti Breschel, they’ll probably be our two key players. We’ve also got a couple of young guys: Christopher Juul Jensen and Anders Lund who are great for getting in breakaways – they’ll be our escapees – and my job will be in the more crucial parts working with Matteo Tosatto, looking after Bennati and Breschel. If we can get those guys as close to the finishline as possible then they’ve got a good chance of getting on to the podium.
“Bjarne Riis will be there; he’s our main directeur for the race so we’ll go in there with great strategy. Saxo Bank has had great success in [Roubaix] in the past. The management knows the parcours really, really well and I’m going to go in there and do the very best I can with the experience that I’ve got – which is not a lot for that particular race… so it’ll all be new and exciting. But I want to do my job for the guys who are looking good.
“Saxo is on a bit of a roll at the moment. We’re going pretty well, not too many guys are sick although there have been a few little niggling injuries for the team but we’re looking for a really strong Classics campaign.”
RIDE: Right now, you’re about to go and do one of your last training rides before setting off up north for Flanders. You’re going to join Matt Goss for training, so what are you going to do only a few days out from the biggest week of the cobbled Classics?
Jonathan Cantwell: “I’m using a trainer who is new for me, Leigh Bryan. They call him ‘Rock’ in Monaco and a lot of guys use him. I’ve been working closely with him as my personal trainer this year and it’s been good. My week before Flanders – two weeks out from Roubaix – includes four-and-a-half hours on the Tuesday with a lot of two or three minute strength and power efforts. Today [Wednesday] I’ll have five hours on the bike with two-and-a-half hours riding at an easier pace and the final stanza motorpacing behind Rock. There’ll be some specific intervals off the motorbike getting ready for the sprints in races like Schelderprijs. Tomorrow [Thursday] there’ll be another four hours on the bike and on Friday I’ll head up to Belgium before the race on Sunday.
“It’s a solid week after racing Criterium International. It’s still cold and we’re doing all our training in Monaco, a week before April, with long thermal leg warmers and jerseys on… it’s crazy but we’re doing some good quality training and I’m looking forward to having a good, strong and solid season.”
(Follow Jonathan Cantwell on Twitter)
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