Sanchez changes tack to fill Valverde's shoes

Clasica San Sebastian winner also has Worlds in sight

While Carlos Sastre started the Vuelta a España having done only 51 days of racing this season (including the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France), his compatriot Luis Leon Sanchez already had 70 days under his belt when the race kicked off from Seville last Saturday.

The Caisse d'Epargne rider started the year in Australia with a stage win at the Santos Tour Down Under in January. He compiled six wins as he added the individual time trial of the Volta ao Algarve in February, stage one and the overall classification of the Circuit de la Sarthe in May, the time trial at the Spanish national championship and the Clasica San Sebastian at the end of July to his palmares.

He also finished second behind Alberto Contador in Paris-Nice - a race he won last year - took fourth at the Volta Catalunya and 11th overall at the Tour de France where he narrowly missed claiming stage nine in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

"I've had a long season but I want to keep racing till the end with the world championships for Spain," said Sanchez. Until mid-August, he was undecided about whether he wanted to add the Vuelta to his race program, eventually accepting to fill the spot left by defending champion Alejandro Valverde, who is currently serving a suspension.

"We haven't totally built the team around him," said Caisse d'Epargne directeur sportif Yvon Ledanois. "We have several captains here with [Giro d'Italia runner up David] Arroyo, Ruben Plaza..." Marzio Bruseghin is another potential podium finisher considering the six uphill finishes where he should do well.

"Luis Leon isn't a selfish rider," Ledanois added. "If he has to ride for somebody else, he'll do it. We'll wait for some difficult stages to figure out what our goals can be on general classification." Towards the end of stage five to Lorca, Sanchez enjoyed entering the community (province) of Murcia where he hails from.

And the 26-year-old from Mula hasn't yet confirmed whether he has already signed for Rabobank for next year. "I'll decide at the end of the season," he explained. During the Tour de France, he conducted negotiations with the Dutch at a time when Eusebio Unzue hadn't yet secured Movistar as a replacement for outgoing sponsor Caisse d'Epargne.

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