For the fifth time in his career, Luis León Sánchez will commence the new season in Australia at the Tour Down Under. The 25-year-old Caisse d'Epargne rider is hopeful the event will provide the basis for objectives later in the season, which include the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
A winner of the Tour Down Under in 2005 and second overall in 2006, Sánchez said that although he has no firm objective for this year's edition, he is confident of lining up with good pre-season condition.
"Living in Murcia where the weather is nice and sunny almost the whole year through I always start the year in rather good condition, almost unintentionally," he said. "Next January I will try to be one of the riders capable of putting in a good performance in Australia. It won't be easy, but we'll be there with a strong team and we'll do our best to win something."
Sánchez explained that he has taken a different approach to his preparations for 2010, in order to enter the new season with less bulk than in past years. "I'm not yet ready to fight for victory, but I've reached a reasonably good level. This winter I didn't train in the gym because in previous years my muscle mass increased too much and it has been a problem to lose it," he said.
"I've ridden my mountain bike a lot and have done a lot of base training on the road. I started forcing the pace a week ago as we'll fly to Australia on January 6 and I want to be ready to go by then."
Sánchez finished 12th at the 2009 edition of the Tour Down Under before going on to take overall victory at both the Tour of the Mediterranean and Paris-Nice. A stage win at the latter race was followed by similar success in July at the Tour de France, where he claimed the eighth stage into Saint-Girons; his second career stage win at the French Grand Tour.
His goals for next season include the defense of his Paris-Nice title and, for the first time in his six-year career, a possible Grand Tour double at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. "I would like to do as well as I did in 2009 and win again a race like Paris-Nice," he said. "Currently the team does not intend to let me start, but I hope that [Team Director] Eusebio Unzúe will change his mind so that I can race in France.
"Apart from Paris-Nice, it would of course be great to be able to win a third stage in the Tour de France and fight for the general classification at both the Tour and the Vuelta. I'm hoping to arrive both in good condition and very motivated."
Sánchez's best overall performance at the Tour was 26th overall this year. He last raced the Vuelta in 2007, where he finished 72nd.