Luis Leon Sanchez to begin Caja Rural contract with La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in January
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Luis Leon Sanchez to begin Caja Rural contract with La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in January

by VeloNation Press at 3:37 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Spaniard eager to return to racing after limited programme in 2014

Luis Leon SanchezNaming the Tropicale Amissa Bongo as his first race of the year, Luis Leon Sanchez has said that he is eager and motivated to get back into competition soon, and that he hopes to clock up many successes for his new Caja Rural RGA team.

The Spanish rider was employed by Belkin Pro Cycling in 2013 but was sidelined for a long time due to his reported links to Operación Puerto and other investigations. He eventually appealed his suspension from racing to the UCI, which ruled that in the absence of any official sanction, Belkin needed to allow him to race again.

However he found it difficult to pick up a contract for 2014 and eventually signed a deal with the Pro Continental Caja Rural RGA squad.

“Thanks to those who have made it possible to be here today, mainly to Caja Rural and RGA Seguros who enabled me to feel like a rider again,” he told Biciciclismo at a press conference called today.

“To race and to put a number on my back was very important to me. I think I come with a lot of motivation to start the year and I am looking forward to my first race.”

That first event will come in the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, which runs from January 13th to 19th, and will then be followed by the Challenge Mallorca, the Vuelta a Andalucia, the Vuelta a Murcia and Almeria Classic. After that he hopes the team will have an invite to Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo. The Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta a Pais Vasco are also on his wish list.

While the team will miss the Tour de France, it has some big targets in the second half of the season. These include the Clásica San Sebastian, the Vuelta a España and the Vuelta a Burgos.

“If things are okay as regards health and crashes, hopefully victories will arrive,” he said. “I am happy to represent this team, this is the number one, and for me it will be a luxury. I am not returning to racing to vindicate myself. I won’t take it as a quiet year.”

Sanchez is a past winner of four stages in the Tour de France, and a multiple national time trial champion. He won the Clásica San Sebastian in 2010 and 2012, and also took the Tour Down Under in 2005 and Paris-Nice in 2009.

His results also include tenth place finishes in the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.

However he was implicated in both the Operación Puerto and Operación Galgo investigations. He denies involvement in those, but his name was also connected to Michele Ferrari in the USADA reasoned decision.

Uneasy about his past, he was sidelined earlier this year by the Belkin team, which was then known as Blanco Pro Cycling. It was subsequently forced to allow him to return after he lodged a complaint with the UCI.

He began racing again on May 22nd in the Tour of Belgium and won the fifth stage there. He was second in the Spanish national time trial championships and third in the road race, then in August he won a stage and placed second overall in the Tour de l’Ain.

He complains that he wasn’t treated fairly. “When you're a professional and you have just thirty days of competition for a year, you feel you are anything but a cyclist. I had tough times,” he said.

“It was a situation created by things external to me. There are people in charge who have hurt me and because of that some teams may have had doubts. That for me is why Caja Rural will be extra motivation for me.

“I always like to start the year well because it is easier to train in Murcia and have form quickly. I asked to go to Gabon - not to vindicate myself, but because I like to race and to compete, and for that I’ll go. I want a good start with this team.”


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