By Antonio J. Salmerón
Luis León Sánchez of Caisse d'Epargne will fly to Australia on January 7 to race the Tour Down Under, as he has done in recent years. The Spaniard has always done well in the heat of the southern Hemisphere and even won the overall classification in 2005.
But the past programme may not be the recipe to follow in 2009. "I want to start the season strongly, but not as strong as when I won in 2005. More like last year." Sánchez will not look for his own glory as much, as he races alongside teammate José Joaquín Rojas. "I will try to help him, because Rojas has already shown that can be fighting to win a stage. But contending for the overall classification is also important for me," the 25-year-old said to Cyclingnews.
When he returns to Europe, Sánchez will compete in the Tour Méditerranéen (February 11-15). "I will be there for a better preparation for the Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, which hopefully takes place." Like some other races, the race in Valencia battles to stay alive in a declining economy and with sponsors pulling out due to doping cases.
The Caisse d'Epargne rider will try to reach peak form for Paris-Nice in March. "I will be back again to a spectacular and very competitive race that has given me so much." Sánchez was lying in second overall last year, only three seconds behind Sylvain Chavanel after four stages. He lost too much time on the Ventoux, but fought back to win the final stage into Nice.
His later programme will depend on how he can recover from March Madness. "Depending on how I feel in April, I will take a decision on my participation in the Vuelta al País Vasco." He also targets the Dauphiné Libéré in June, as preparation for the Tour de France. "I will be there for giving support to my team leaders, as always. I already have a stage victory in the Tour, in Aurillac, and that gives me great confidence. But the Tour de France will take place in more than seven months, so now it is too early [for predictions]."