Luis Leon Sanchez wore his new Rabobank kit for the first time at the team's presentation earlier this week and hopes to help Robert Gesink onto the Tour de France podium in 2011. After four years with Caisse d'Epargne, the Spaniard moved to the Dutch team for the coming season.
His first goal for the season will be Paris-Nice, where he hopes to top last-year's performance of finishing second overall. He won the race in 2009. Leading up to that, he will ride the Mallorca Challenge and Algarve.
From there he will tackle the Tour of the Basque Country before heading to the Ardennes Classics: Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. After the Dauphine Libere he will face the Tour de France, San Sebastian Classic and Vuelta a Espana.
Sanchez has been able to train well so far, even in the cold Spanish winter. “The weather is good and I can use it to get good form,” he told biciciclismo.com.
The plan is to go into Algarve in good form and then, “do even better in Paris-Nice.”
The Spaniard has little experience with the Classics, but knows they are important to his new team. “The goal is to win at least one. At Rabobank we are fortunate that there are people such as Oscar Freire with experience in this type of racing, and we will have several options. We hope to have luck on our side.”
At the Tour de France, Sanchez will mainly be a helper for captain Robert Gesink, but hopes to have his own chances as well. “"The Tour for 2011 is even harder than 2010. It is for a pure climber and we have one, Gesink. So I have to think of the needs of the team and although I will have freedom in key moments I have to think more about Gesink than of myself. And I will have more freedom in the Vuelta, where I hope to do well."
The 27-year-old showed support for his future captain, Gesink. “He is young and has shown he can be with the best in the mountains at the Tour. You have to be confident, and also for the Rabobank team it's is very important to have a Dutch leader.”
He has been very impressed with his new team, and especially pleased that the sponsorship has been extended through 2016. “In these difficult times we are now having in cycling, it is very important that a firm as big as Rabobank wants to continue in cycling, and hopefully many other like-minded businesses will also invest in this sport."
Sanchez had been a bit nervous about his first non-Spanish team, but sees that not only his command of English will help, but also the fact that three other Spaniards are on Rabobank. “The experiences of Freire and Garate and the arrival of Barredo have been important to me. And not only the Spaniards but the whole team welcomed me pretty well.”