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Third overall Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Igor Anton promoted to protected Euskaltel rider
Samuel Sanchez has decided not to ride this year's Vuelta a España, which begins in Seville this Saturday evening.
After a hard-fought fourth place overall at the Tour de France last month, the Olympic champion's decision means Igor Anton has been promoted to Euskaltel-Euskadi's protected rider for the general classification.
Sanchez, who finished second overall in last year's Vuelta, focused his 2010 efforts on a big Tour de France performance and he very nearly delivered an overall podium place for the Basque outfit, only dislodged from third overall in the final time trial by Rabobank's Denis Menchov.
For his part, Anton has performed well this season, finishing fourth at the Flèche Wallonne and sixth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège before winning a stage of the Tour of Romandie in Sion.
"My early season has been successful", Anton explained. "I've not taken part in the Tour de France to focus on the Vuelta only. This was the right decision because the Vuelta is hilly and I'll need to be fresh."
Euskaltel-Euskadi stalwart Egoi Martinez will lead the support for Anton, explaining that the outfit no longer relies on opportunity in Grand Tours thanks largely to the efforts of Sanchez, which he hopes to continue, despite his absence.
"Now that we have strong leaders for the Grand Tours, we race differently than previously," said Martinez. "We don't look for all the breakaways anymore. We've done a great job for Sanchez at the Tour and we'll be 100 percent behind Anton at the Vuelta."
After speculation from some quarters, Sanchez renewed his contract with the team earlier this month while Martinez and Anton recently followed suit, as did Amets Txurruka and Gorka Verdugo in the past few days.