While moving to a foreign team is said to renew motivation for a lot of riders, it can also be the cause of some difficulty. Luis Leon Sanchez experienced this when he left his home squad of Caisse d'Epargne and signed for Dutch Rabobank last year.
Even though the Spaniard scored a stage at the Tour de France and became national time trial champion, the amount of his top level performances did not match those of previous years. While gearing up for this season's spring races, Sanchez looked back on his first year at Rabobank and admitted that that he had had a hard time adapting to his new employer at first.
"At the beginning of last year, I said that the team change did not affect me. But finally, it did have a big influence on me. Before that, I had always ridden in Spanish teams, and joining a Dutch squad brought a lot of changes with it: change of language, of customs... it affects you a lot," he told Spanish website cobblesandhills.com.
"The beginning of the year was complicated. I crashed a lot, and I wasn't used to crashing in the previous years. In 2011, I crashed at every race, and I wasn't able to reach my best level of form. Before, I always rode a lot without recovering, and last year, it was the contrary: a lot of training and only little competition."
The 28-year-old said that the Dutch language had been one of his main obstacles when trying to integrate into his new team. "I had some private lessons at me home. But I felt sidelined as my teammates spoke very fast and I didn't understand anything. Several issues accumulated. But I was lucky as there were several Spanish riders who tried to help me. I will always be thankful to them," he added. While Oscar Freire has this year joined Katusha, Sanchez is still in the company of Carlos Barredo and Juan Manuel Garate.
Having found more stability now, Sanchez has vowed to increase his performances this season. "This year, I will try to correct the mistakes I made last year and do better. I think that this year, everyhting is different: I know where I want to go, what I have to do, what I need to choose. I've tried to start the year doing things right and we'll see if is pays off later."
After having raced the Tour Down Under and the Mallorca Challenge, Sanchez is now at the Volta ao Algarve. He is looking forwad to one of his preferred races, Paris-Nice, and will focus on other stage races after it: Tour de Romandie, Tour of California, Tour de Suisse and Tour de France.
Moreover, this year being an Olympic one, Sanchez draws special motivation of the prospect of going to London in August. "The Olympics are definitely one of my objectives, the time trial as well as the road race. It would be strange, after the Tour, to say that you are too tired for an event like the Olympics. I would love to represent Spain. I know it's possible, but it only depends on myself: I need to do a good season so that the national coach has confidence in me and selects me."
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