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Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) celebrates his stage victory on the podium.
Sanchez with stage win, Gesink on the rebound
Rabobank was one of the few teams able to smile after Sunday's dramatic crash-filled stage, with Luis Leon Sanchez winning in Saint Flour to the Dutch team's first victory in the Tour de France since 2009. Team captain Robert Gesink also seemed to have recovered from his problems of the previous day.
Sanchez dedicated the third Tour stage win of his career to his late brother Leon and his daughter who is due to be born next month. He movingly pointed to the sky and then sucked his thumb and indicated that his wife was pregnant.
Last year Sanchez had been in a similar long breakaway but finished second behind Sandy Casar. He admitted to As.com that defeat was his fault for not studying the road book and knowing the finish. This time he had done his homework and knew that it was a “demanding finish with a steep slope after a hard day. When you're confident, you can win. It's an important win for me and the team.”
It was extra special for the Spaniard because the Rabobank team had started the Tour de France with the sole goal of helping Robert Gesink finish on the podium. “Who would have dared to think this would have happened? I dreamed of winning a stage, but we were mostly at the Tour came to work for Gesink," Sanchez said.
Gesink comes back
Gesink lost just over a minute to the other favourites on Saturday but bounced back from his problems. He was one of many riders involved in crashes during the fifth stage, leaving him with an injured elbow and back problems.
After Saturday's stage he was demoralised and indicated he had considered dropping out of the race. But things had turned around only 24 hours later.
"Now I can smile and look back on a ride that I really needed, he said on the team's website. “With the rest day on Monday, I can hopefully take a step in the right direction in the coming days."
He thanked his teammates for their help both on and off the road. “I am grateful for the team, not only for their work on the course but also beyond. Yesterday (Saturday) we sat together in the bus after the stage and they all tried to cheer me up."
Stage winner Sanchez played a special role. "Luis Leon speaks the worst English in the team, but he helped me a lot. It's great that he won. And his victory can be a boost to me."
The only down note for the team was the loss of veteran Juan Manuel Garate. He crashed with Gesink on Wednesday and has an hairline fracture in his right upper arm, near the shoulder. After riding three stages, he was still in a lot of pain, so after consultation with the medical staff, it was decided that he would not start Sunday's stage.