Luís León Sánchez (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) only for sure knew he had a team for 2014 in late December - but he was the first Spaniard (and as of day one of the Mallorca Challenge, the only one) to take a victory in the new season, with a stage win in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
Tanned and fit-looking as he stood in the gusting winds outside the Caja Rural-Seguros RGA team bus on day two of the Mallorca Challenge, Sánchez said “I’ve started well this year, but I’m sure that other Spanish riders will be doing as well as me in the near future. There’s a lot of talented guys out there.”
Being able to hit the ground running in 2014, he says, is more due to “going back to the gym this winter and doing a lot of workouts” than wanting to create a good impression in his new team. “I needed to do that gym work because I had lost a lot of muscle mass through not racing enough in 2013. I didn’t know where I was going to ride so it seemed like a good idea.”
The 30-year-old will race one more day in Mallorca - Tuesday - before heading to the Tour Méditerranéen, which he won in 2009 with Caisse d’Epargne prior to going on to win Paris-Nice that spring as well as a stage of the Tour du Haut Var. Haut Var starts this year on February 13th.
“It’s a race that suits me, there’s an 18 kilometre time trial which is good for me and I know the uphill finish on the Mont Faron well. But I won’t be the only one looking for another early win.”
Sánchez has good memories of his 2009 victory: “we did a good team time trial, then I got in the right break and then I held onto the lead up the Mont Faron, it was very important for me at the time.”
“He’s doing really well and he provides a great reference point for the squad,” Caja Rural-Seguros RGA sports director Jaime Gutierrez added, “although it’s important we keep the original team spirit going too and our riders don’t lose the liking for striking out under their own initiative, as that’s part of the way that this team has always operated, too."
Sánchez is aiming for a strong performance in the Vuelta al País Vasco - “because it’s very close to the team’s base, in Navarre” - as one big target, and the Vuelta a España is another. "This isn’t a WorldTour team so the calendar isn’t as strictly set up in advance. The idea is more to be competitive throughout the entire year.”
Although he hasn’t signed with Caja Rural-Seguros RGA for more than one year, the Murcia-born pro says “this isn’t a transition year for me. It’s all about enjoying racing and racing lots, because that’s something I’ve missed.”