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Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was in the main favourites group.
Olympic champion impresses on first Alpine challenge
Although yesterday's stage to Morzine-Avoriaz may not have ultimately played out the way Samuel Sánchez would have liked, the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider is pleased with his performance and hopes to maintain that strong form throughout the rest of the Tour de France.
The reigning Olympic road race champion took second on the stage, narrowly beaten by Andy Schleck after the pair sprinted hard for the line at the end of a tough 189km in the saddle. He now sits in ninth place overall, 2:15 behind new overall leader Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
"It was the first serious test in the mountains and I responded with strength and ambition," said Sánchez. "I know that opportunities are few and that we must try to take advantage of them, but it's a matter of trying a thousand times. I may have started [the sprint] a little early, but at that time I was convinced that it was the best [idea].
While his teammates have had a tough time of it in the first week of this year's Tour, with many crashes plaguing the Spanish squad, Sánchez is pleased with where he's positioned heading into the rest day and a major push into the pyrenees.
"I'm happy with my performance on the stage today. I worked hard to get in better shape for the Tour de France and demonstrated that with this performance which makes me optimistic for the remainder of the race, of which there is a lot," he continued.
"I am placed ninth overall and I've cut some time to the other candidates for the top spots, except Andy Schleck, who was super [today]. Tomorrow we have the rest day and I'll take time to recover my strength; these first eight stages have become very hard."
Sánchez's performance capped a great day for Spanish sport, with his countrymen later winning the FIFA World Cup final and Alberto Contador moving onto the podium overall. Astana's leader paid tribute to his friend and compatriot for a job well done.
"I am delighted that he was up front," said Contador. "We're great friends. I'm happy for him, because it now seems that things are going well."
And the admiration was reciprocated by Sánchez, who said of Contador and his team: "Astana was incredible. I think they are the strongest team. I have to congratulate them, they have been criticised a lot and now they've showed what they can do."