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Stage winner and overall Pais Vasco champion Sammy Sanchez celebrates with some champagne.
Spaniard opts out for two remaining spring classics
Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is not a favorite for the win in Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, according to the 34-year-old Spaniard. Sanchez has come seemingly unprepared to the Netherlands and is likely to skip Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Sanchez originally wasn’t scheduled to race the Dutch one-day race either but the WorldTour points at stake, the similarity of the Amstel-parcours with that of the world championships and his splendid form, decided differently.
“We changed plans and we decided I would ride on Sunday. I’ve got good legs and yes, it’s good for the team too,” Sanchez said.
The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider showed his good form last week at the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, where he won two stages and came second in two others, to take the overall title ahead of Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha). It was the first time in his long career he was able to win his home race.
Despite that win, Sanchez didn’t agree with a role as one of the favorites coming into Amstel Gold Race. When someone said Sanchez was at least fourth or fifth among the list of favorites the likeable Spaniard seemed caught by surprise and started laughing out loud. “Rodriguez showed in the Pais Vasco that he’s got more power. There’s also Valverde, Sagan, Nibali, Evans… I’m not the favorite.”
Surprising new Amstel finale
Cyclingnews learned that Sanchez nor his team didn’t know about the new finale of the Dutch race. This year organizer Leo van Vliet reduced the distance between the steep Keutenberg and the finish on the Cauberg by a couple of kilometers. In the past, the riders reached the top of the Keutenberg and then headed left into the descent after the plateau on top of this climb.
Now they’re heading straight ahead to Valkenburg and the Cauberg, benefiting the attackers who know they’re at a disadvantage against uphill sprinters like Rodriguez. When asked about his thoughts on the modified course Sanchez once again was caught by surprise. “Amstel? Tomorrow? The finish is different?”. After being told that there would be less kilometers between the Keutenberg and the finishing climb of the Cauberg the Spaniard seemed pleased. “That’s much better. It’ll be hard for riders to come back after the Keutenberg.”
Not all Ardennes specialists are riding all three of the races this week. Sanchez said that he might skip the two Belgian races after Amstel. “I only do Amstel. Afterwards I go home. I’ll relax at home. Maybe if my legs feel good I come back for Liege. Otherwise I start my holiday. I return in the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour de France. Then there’s the Olympics.”
Dream of world championships medal
Following the Olympic road race where he hopes to extend his title, Sanchez says the world championships as his definite goal. “A world championship medal. Then I will have realized all my dreams since I began riding as a child. I wanted to to shine at the Olympics. I did that in Beijing in 2008. I wanted the polka-dot jersey at the Tour (de France, ed.). I did that last year. I wanted to win the Vuelta a Pais Vasco. I did that last week,” he said, according to nieuwsblad.be. “The only thing left is a medal at the Worlds. That is why it is so interesting to ride the Amstel Gold Race. It is a warm-up for the Worlds.”