Luis Leon Sanchez ready for final pre-Tour de France test
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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Luis Leon Sanchez ready for final pre-Tour de France test

by Jered Gruber at 3:00 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Caisse d'Epargne rider looking to hone form in Switzerland

Caisse d'Epargne's Luis Leon Sanchez started his last preparation before the Tour de France with a modest 67th place finish in today's first stage time trial of the Tour de Suisse in Lugano.

The former Spanish time trial champion from Murcia, has had a long break leading into the Tour de Suisse and admits that it will take some time to get back into the rhythm of racing.

"I have not competed since Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a long time ago, and even if I have been feeling very well during my training sessions, I know it won't be easy to find the rhythm of the race again. Training and racing are completely different. It will therefore be very important to see how I improve day after day, stage after stage."

For Sanchez, the Tour de France has suddenly become a much more wide open affair. With the suspension of teammate and former World #1 rider, Alejandro Valverde, Sanchez can now aim all of his efforts at a possible top overall performance. With the departure of Valverde from his Caisse d'Epargne team until probably 2012, Sanchez's time is now, and he recognizes the importance of the Tour de Suisse.

"This is the last opportunity to race before the Tour de France. That means the Tour de Suisse is very important to go on with our preparation aiming to find the perfect shape before the Tour."

Sanchez has never taken a top overall result in a three-week Grand Tour. Sanchez is no stranger to success at the Tour de France though. He can count two stage wins in 2008 and 2009 to his palmares.

Stage wins are nice, but Sanchez's climbing and time trial abilities have long promised Grand Tour general classification dreams. Up to this point, he has made a career of strong performances at the smaller stage races. This year alone, Sanchez has finished 1st at the Circuit de la Sarthe, 2nd at the Volta ao Algarve (with a time trial victory over Alberto Contador), 2nd at the Tour Down Under, 3rd at Paris-Nice, and 4th at the Volta a Catalunya. If Sanchez was a typical Tour de France hopeful, these results would be cause to celebrate his chances in the upcoming Grand Boucle. Sanchez hasn't shown himself in a three-week Grand Tour stage race up to this point though. That could all change if things go according to plan in July. The podium is most likely off limits, but a top 10 overall would go a long way in underlining the potential of the 26-year-old.

The decision to race either the Dauphine or the Tour de Suisse seems a difficult one for many, but Sanchez feels like the Tour de Suisse is the right place to hone his form for the Tour: "Except for a few riders, almost all of the riders who will fight to climb on the podium in Paris at the end of July are here in Switzerland. With middle and high mountain stages and another time trial at the end of next week, we can be sure the race will be a very nice and animated one."

The strong all-around is not putting any pressure on himself for the rest of the week in Switzerland, but he isn't ruling out the possibility.

"It is obvious that my goal is first of all to leave Switzerland in very good condition, but if I see an opportunity to win a stage or get a good result in the overall classification, I will also try to do so."

It will be interesting to see how Sanchez performs in the upcoming mountains and the final time trial at the Tour de Suisse. Sanchez could well be a rider waiting to surprise in July, and this week's racing in Switzerland could be the first warning shot.

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