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Eventual stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez climbs with the peloton on the first ascent of Willunga
Spaniard sets up his season with early win
Luis León Sánchez's successful history at the Tour Down Under continued on Saturday as he took his second career stage win at the race. A winner of the event overall in 2005, the 26-year-old's success on the event's Queen stage to Willunga Hill is a signal that his altered pre-season preparation could pay dividends.
“We intended to do something great today and it was impossible to get a better result,” said the Caisse d'Epargne rider after his win.
Sánchez's victory was set-up as he and teammate Alejandro Valverde followed an attack by Cadel Evans (BMC), 20km before the finish on the second of two ascents of the Tour Down Under's famed Old Willunga Hill. Having worked hard to set up Valverde two days earlier into Stirling, Sánchez said the signs were good early in the day.
"We knew we had another opportunity to win a stage today because of the tough course," he said. "I felt great when I woke hope this morning, with good legs and the entire team was very motivated when we started from Snapper Point.”
Sánchez's response to Evans' attack was a strong signal that alterations to his early season preparations have helped his ability on the climbs. The Spaniard abandoned much of his usual off-season gym programme in an effort to keep his muscle mass to a minimum, a plan which, he says, appears to have paid off.
“I arrived in Australia with a different preparation compared with the previous years. It looks like it was not a bad idea. We had very good training sessions in Australia, always with sunny weather and I could tell that I was improving every day."
Saturday's result bodes well for Sánchez's early season objectives, which he hopes will include the defense of his 2009 Paris-Nice title. Despite his team's desire for him not to participate, his form on today's Willunga parcours could be enough to force a change of schedule.
"It is obvious that today's win is a big motivation for the first part of the season," said Sánchez. "I hope to carry on and get good results as I have in previous years. ”
Sánchez's stage win also catapulted him into second place overall, 11 seconds down on HTC-Columbia's André Greipel. Though unlikely to topple the German, with a number of bonus seconds on offer in the race's final stage Sánchez and his teammates will need to be wary if they are to maintain their high overall finish.