Euskaltel-Euskadi worth WorldTour place, says Sanchez

Samuel Sanchez was in little doubt that his Euskaltel-Euskadi team would be granted WorldTour status for 2012. The Basque team’s presence in cycling’s top flight was only confirmed by the UCI early last week, but Sanchez was confident that the outfit was deserving of a place both for its performances on the road and the large following it attracts.

“It would have been strange not to have been part of the WorldTour next year,” Sanchez told El Diario Vasco. “We’ve had the same uncertainty for the last two years, but I think that we rode the past season at a very high level.

“We also have to appreciate what this team brings to cycling. I think that a team capable of bringing six thousand supporters to the Pyrenees and filling the roadsides at the Tour of the Basque Country deserves to be among the best.”

While Euskatel-Euskadi manager Miguel Madariaga hinted that riders would have been free to leave had the squad failed to earn a WorldTour berth, Sanchez was adamant that he was going to remain with the Basque team regardless. “I wouldn’t have left Euskaltel-Euskadi,” he said.

Sanchez expressed his regret at the sudden departure of erstwhile team manager Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, who opted to step down from his position at the end of the 2011 season.

“I respect his decision, but I told him that I was sad he was leaving,” Sanchez said. “I respect his decision because you have to respect it, but I didn’t agree with it. A lot of the things we have achieved have come about from the way he managed the team. He has been important to my career. He had a way of doing things that some people liked and others didn’t, but he brought us a lot of success. You can’t always please everybody.”

Gonzelez de Galdeano joined the squad as a youthful manager after calling time on his own racing career ahead of the 2006 season. “I knew him before he joined the team,” Sanchez said. “We’re very similar in a lot of ways, and the emotional bond that we had was a big one. He is a trustworthy person who alleviated a lot of problems for Miguel Madariaga and he took over the sporting side of things for six years.”

Euskaltel-Euskadi’s future is currently guaranteed only until the end of 2012, but Sanchez is hopeful that the team’s performances will help to ensure its continued existence. “I don’t think anybody is thinking about whether the team continues beyond 2012 or not,” he said. “The important thing is to win races.”

Sanchez is hoping to hit the ground running in spite of undergoing hip surgery during the off-season. The operation kept him off the bike for just a week, and the Spaniard is eying a number of objectives in 2012.

“In the month of December I’ll go to Tenerife, and I have a lot of time to recover,” he said. “Next year, I have some important aims – the Tour of the Basque Country, the Tour de France, where I have big hopes, the Olympics and the Worlds.

“I have real objectives and winning the Tour isn’t one of them, but I do intend to finish as high up as possible.”

Sanchez also aims to travel to London to defend his Olympic title, where the home favourite is expected to shine. “They’re saying it’s a course for Cavendish, that it’s very flat, but we’ll have to see. A 200km race always ends up being hard.”

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