By Antonio J. Salmerón
It already appears normal to see Luis León Sánchez' parents in Nice, where they wanted to be moved by their son's celebrations, when he dedicates a triumph. Still, the rider born in Mula (Murcia) had words of deep gratitude to his team-mates at Caisse d'Epargne, "not only because of the incredible job they accomplished on the way to Nice, but also throughout the week; they never stopped to trust me."
He didn't have the legs on the climb up the Ventoux, but cautioned that he would continue the battle and in the end managed to put on a good show. "The rivals were very competitive in the stage and with a very open fight for the podium still, which complicated matters to get where I am now." But he made it in Nice, while Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) was frustrated not to be able to repeat his success from Cannes. Sánchez explained to Cyclingnews that in Cannes, "I attacked and Cunego went with me, but it was not more than a disturbance [Cunego didn't collaborate - ed.], and Chavanel knew how to take advantage of that lack of understanding."
Concerning the Tour de France, Sánchez had a balanced view. Less time trialing kilometres (82, versus the 117 in 2007), the lack of the traditional time bonuses, the return of the mythical Alpe d'Huez and the appearance of the colossus of La Bonette are some of the surprises that the organisers presented for the 3554-kilometre long route. There will be five high-mountain stages, four in the medium mountains and two time trials, with the traditional prologue being left out of the 2008 Tour. "To me, I can't say if it's good or bad, to have less time trialing kilometres. It is more important for Alejandro Valverde. I will be in the Tour to help him always be in front, and, if there is an opportunity, I will try to take advantage."
He rode his first Tour in 2005, when he was allowed to be in a break in one of the important mountain stages. The next year, he suffered the exclusion of the Astana-Würth team, headed by Alexander Vinokourov. Last year, he was knocked out of the team in the last minute, despite finishing second in the national time trialing championships. "For me, that was a real disappointment, because I was training very specifically [for the Tour]. Now it is different. I know I will be there, even though there is always the chance that the directors of the team decide otherwise. I want to show myself very competitive in the Vuelta al País Vasco, where I certainly do not have an advantage, due to the lack of mountain finishes. But before, I will ride the Critérium International, together with Valverde. Later, I will do the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, after the classics."