Spain adds gold to Tour and football glory
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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Spain adds gold to Tour and football glory

by Agence France-Presse at 12:42 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Samuel Sanchez's maiden Olympic victory for Spain in the men's cycling road race here Saturday has capped another gold-tinged year for his countrymen.

And Sanchez, a 30-year-old from Oviedo who has won five stages on the Tour of Spain, was only too happy to join in.

Sanchez's victory comes only weeks after teammate Carlos Sastre, who played a pivotal role in Spain's first Olympic road race triumph, claimed the world famous Tour de France yellow jersey.

It is also barely a month after Spain's football team triumphed at the European championships held in Austria and Switzerland.

And with several big stars in basketball's NBA, and Rafael Nadal burning up the tennis courts, Sanchez was delighted to join in. "We have a great generation of athletes who work hard, but who also get a lot of support from the government," said Sanchez after beating Italian Davide Rebellin to the coveted gold medal. "We've got the football team, a few big names in the NBA and of course there's Nadal. We're right up there at the top this year. We do well across the board when it comes to sport. "I hope it's the first of many medals for the Spanish here."

Sanchez proved the strongest on the 245km road race which took its toll on 53 of the 143 starters. They dropped out during the seven laps of a hilly, 23.8km circuit.

Spain's new Olympic champion saw his chance emerge when Tour de France runner-up Cadel Evans attacked on the climb on the final lap.

The Australian's move left pre-race favourites Paolo Bettini and Alejandro Valverde, Sanchez's team leader, behind and further on ultimately left a group of six riders on the final kilometre.

From that group, Rebellin looked the man to triumph on an uphill finish which perfectly suited his abilities. But in the final 250 metres Sanchez ruined the Italian's 37th birthday celebrations with a move up the right which allowed the Spaniard to come over the finish line in triumph.

"There were a lot of other big favourites like Valverde and Bettini, and others, like me and Rebellin, who could also hope to spring a surprise," added Sanchez. "I knew I was coming into the race with good form, which I showed at the San Sebastien Classic and at the Tour de France where I finished seventh overall. "My biggest fear was being able to control the race as a team, and in such humid, and tremendous heat but the raced to perfection. "Sastre was our team captain and kept us all calm." He added: "It's a dream come true for me, although I probably haven't realised what I've achieved."

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