Even though he finished outside of the Top Five, Euskaltel-Euskadi's Samuel Sanchez has had his best Tour de France ever, netting a stage win at Luz-Ardiden and receiving the honours on the podium in Paris for having been the race's best climber. The Basque rider has wanted success at the Tour for a long time, and was overjoyed to finally make a breakthrough in 2011.
"I'm very happy to have taken this jersey," the Olympic champion told Cyclingnews on Sunday afternoon. "The satisfaction of being on the podium in Paris could not be greater, it was awesome. For the team, it's also very important just because of the prestige that goes with winning the best climber's jersey of the Tour de France. It's just great. The Tour for us has been very positive."
Sanchez took the jersey back from Jelle Vandenert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on stage 19 to Alpe d'Huez, having previously worn it after his stage win in the Pyrenees. He proved stronger in both the battle for the mountains classification and the fight for stage honours, as Vandenert was his greatest rival also on the way to the finish line on stage 12.
On Alpe d'Huez, the Olympic champion clocked the best time on the climb with 41.45 minutes. He was beaten at the top by the best young rider of the Tour, Europcar's Pierre Rolland, but his objective of the polkadot jersey was achieved.
"It was a very challenging stage with a fast start," the 33-year-old remembered of the day when Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) lost the yellow jersey. "[Alberto] Contador attacked just after the start and that blew things up right away. He put all the the favourites under pressure.
"The climb to Alpe d'Huez was very strategic, with Evans and the Schlecks watching each other. Alberto tried to go for the stage in the beginning of the climb, and I attacked a bit later. In the last kilometres, Pierre Rolland was better than us... But I conquered the polkadot jersey."