SAINT QUENTIN, France (Reuters) - The Tour de France is six days old but such are the nuances of cycling that long-time race leader Fabian Cancellara knows he has no chance of wearing the yellow jersey when the carnival finishes up in Paris on July 22.
Few other sports compare when it comes to false dawns, misleading results and unrealistic dreams but at least Swiss Cancellara - nicknamed Spartacus - is well aware of cycling’s perverse twists of fate almost worthy of a Roman epic.
Every day for six days the RadioShack rider has gone to the media conference wearing his yellow jersey, ready for a barrage of mostly meaningless questions for a time-trial specialist who will slip down the timesheets once the race hits the mountains.
“The Tour is a dream, not a goal,” the 31-year-old said with a deep breath, desperate that Thursday’s ordeal in front of the gathered journalists should be shorter than usual.
“I have goals and they are other races. Today I’m the rider in the history of cycling with the most days in yellow without winning the Tour de France - and it will stay that way for the rest of my career.”
Olympic time-trial champion Cancellara, who has now held the yellow jersey for 27 days during his career having won eight stages since 2004, could be overtaken by race favourite Bradley Wiggins when the Tour reaches the Alps on Saturday.
Cancellara is seven seconds ahead of second-placed British Team Sky rider Wiggins and 17 seconds in front of defending champion Cadel Evans - numbers that have not changed since the time-trial prologue in Liege on Saturday.
“It’s funny that I’ve had all the luck isn’t it?” Wiggins told reporters after avoiding a series of crashes in recent days, a year after bowing out after a nasty pile-up.
“I realised last year that you soon realise the real world and who your friends are when you crash out of the Tour de France.”
Having become splintered in recent days, Sky raced as more of a team on Thursday’s stage won by Andre Greipel and protected top man Wiggins.
“It’s easier to ride with a purpose,” Sky boss Dave Brailsford said before the team bus packed up and sped away.
“The way it went today is the best way to keep Brad out of trouble. We’ve got Mark (Cavendish) and Brad and the best place for them is at the front.”
Cancellara has been warned.
Editing by Clare Fallon