Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has said that he is unsure if he will take part in the Ardennes classics in 2011. The Spaniard has come close to victory in both Fléche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the past, although he skipped the classics in 2010 in order to focus on his Tour de France preparation.
“This year I didn’t ride the Ardennes classics so as to arrive at the Tour as fresh as possible,” Sanchez told CyclismActu.net. “They are three classics that I love, however, and I think that they are historic and very prestigious so it’s always a great honour to participate. But I still don’t know if I’ll take part in 2011.”
Sanchez also confirmed that he will not figure in Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Giro d’Italia line-up. “I’m leaving the Giro to Igor Anton and Mikel Nieve,” he said. “These riders have reached maturity and the Giro is a race for the great climbers that they are. They must continue to progress and take responsibility, like they did during the 2010 Vuelta.”
Instead, Sanchez will again look to focus his energies on preparing for the Tour de France, where he believes he can finish on the podium in Paris.
“The primary objective will be to fight for the podium at the Tour de France,” Sanchez. “Succeeding in winning a stage is also something that is close to my heart. I know these challenges are difficult but that motivates me every day and in every race that I do.”
Sanchez was squeezed off the podium in 2010 in the final time trial by Denis Menchov, but he insists that he has no regrets about his Tour performance, even though he was disappointed to fall just shy of third place.
“This Tour allowed me to strengthen myself mentally and gain experience,” Sanchez said. “I know now that I can fight for the podium and that confirms my expectations.
“It is true that after having spent more than ten stages provisionally on the podium, it’s a little disappointing not to have been there in the end. But what I’ve taken from that Tour is very positive for the present and the future.”
If Alberto Contador is eventually sanctioned for his adverse analytical finding for Clenbuterol, Sanchez would stand to be promoted to third overall in the 2010 race. Regardless of whether his compatriot is eligible to ride in 2011, however, Sanchez was quick to downplay any thought of challenging for overall victory.
“[Winning the Tour] is something that is accessible to very few riders,” he explained. “Over the past 20 years, Indurain has won five, Armstrong seven and Contador three. Between the three of them, they account for 15 Tours…. Winning the Tour? That’s really something very difficult but I’m still very fit and motivated to continue to improve my performances in this race. I’ll fight to my last breath.”
Olympic champion in Beijing in 2008, the 32-year-old Sanchez said that he will be on hand to defend his title in London in two years’ time. He also expressed his desire to remain in the colours of Euskaltel-Euskadi, where he has spent his entire career.
“I’ve grown up at Euskaltel-Euskadi and I’m very bound to this project,” he said. “I’ve been here since 1997. Three years as an amateur in the Olarra-Orbea team and then a professional since 2000. I still don’t know where I’ll finish my career, but I feel very good in orange…”