Samuel Sánchez was honoured in Bilbao yesterday by his Basque fans for his Olympic gold medal. The Asturian rider, born in Oviedo and with secondary residence in Güeñes (Bizkaia), was accompanied by his Euskaltel team-mates, the team manager Miguel Madariaga and the technical secretary Igor González de Galdeano.
According to the Spanish website Deia, José Luis Bilbao, the general deputy of the Diputation of Bizkaia, handed a "makila", a traditional Basque walking stick. The 30 year–old Sánchez expressed his gratitude to his team for its season planning. "Many people thought perhaps that we committed an error, but nothing ventured, nothing gained," said the Asturian with regards to the Tour de France, where he finished seventh.
Sánchez started to grasp what he has accomplished in China. "Being Olympic champion has an enormous magnitude, not only in cycling but also in the daily life. When I walked through Beijing, everybody recognised me, and here everywhere I go [people recognise me], even if I go shopping. Previously, this was unthinkable," admitted Sánchez. Sánchez is conscious that the triumph "will change me, because everywhere I go, there will always be a microphone or a camera, but I want to go on with my career. I have still many objectives and even if I still have to adapt to my new life as Olympic champion, I will try to live the best way possible and to learn to live with it."
The Asturian announced that his objectives for the next years are "winning the Vuelta al País Vasco, one stage of Paris – Nice or struggling for the podium of the Tour de France. I think that I am in the best age to obtain these objectives and to extend my palmarès step by step."
Talking about doping, Sánchez defended cycling from the continuous suspicions and said that the four anti-doping controls the riders passed within four days in Beijing were exaggerated. "I always say that we have to assume our part of the guilt, but everybody [else does, too]. There will always be suspicions and we have this always above us. It is something very heavy. In other sports every year new records are established, and nobody says anything. Cycling can be proud because we are passing a lot of controls and this has to be recognised," demanded Sánchez.
His next goal will be the World championships in Varese, even if he is conscious that he will participate there in order to support Óscar Freire. Sánchez won't ride the Vuelta a España. Instead, he will try to get in form riding the Tour de Pologne.(MP)