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Stage winner Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) on the podium.
Euskaltel-Euskadi leader starting in solid form
Samuel Sanchez believes that the "terrible" final week of this year's Tour de France in the Pyrenees will decide the overall result.
Speaking to Spanish news agency Europa Press, Sanchez was clear in declaring where he thinks the title can be won and lost.
"The Pyrenees is where the race will be decided, especially on the stage of the Tourmalet and the 50km time trial," he said. "Also at the dreaded stage of the pavé, where there will be nerves and falls and if you're not fit, you can lose time."
Of the Tour's third stage, which could prove problematic for many riders, Sanchez joked: "We need to adopt an emergency position where we cross our fingers and pray to all the saints!"
Sánchez will be joined at this year's Tour de France by teammates Egoi Martínez, Rubén Pérez, Gorka Verdugo, Amets Txurruka, Juanjo Oroz, Iñaki Isasi, Iban Velasco and Alan Pérez, with Aitor Hernández as the squad's reserve.
The reigning Olympic road race champion has enjoyed a low-profile start to his season, although he sprung to attention with great form in the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, where he won the event's toughest stage in style and secured eighth on general classification before winning the Klasika Primavera.
These performances came on the back of top five results overall in Paris-Nice and the Critérium International and the 32-year-old is confident that if his gradual run into form continues he can reap the rewards.
"The route this year is very hard and the last week will be for people who have good legs - if we get there we can pick up some fruit," he explained.
And while acknowledging that countryman and reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador is the "number one favourite", he's aware that the likes of the Schleck brothers have enjoyed similar preparation to himself and will pose a threat.
"Andy Scheck is riding well and in [the Tour of] Switzerland he started coming into some form, so he will arrive at the Tour in good condition to contest it," said Sanchez.
As for his own form, Sanchez says that he feels better than in the lead up to the 2008 Tour, where he took sixth overall. "We are pleased with the last few months and now we're putting the finishing touches on my preparation and completing it the best we can," he said.