Samuel Sánchez seemed to have shed his long-standing reputation for being one of the sport’s nearly men when he claimed the Olympic road title in Beijing three years ago. But after losing out to Andy Schleck in Morzine during last year’s Tour and, yesterday, to Andreas Klöden in the fifth stage of Paris-Nice, the Euskaltel-Euskadi leader is once again letting major opportunities slip away when most people would back him to win.
Neither Schleck nor Klöden is renowned for his sprinting ability, particularly not the German, who has mystified his team managers throughout his career with his lack of confidence and ambition. But both have now beaten Sánchez on key stages.
The Spaniard said after Paris-Nice’s stage five finish in Vernoux: “I am happy because I can see how good my form is. But it’s not so good to be so close to the stage win and the race lead and miss out on them.”
Sánchez described the stage as “very hard and selective, typical of Paris-Nice. The conclusion I take from it is very good. I’m optimistic because my preparation is clearly on the right path and is paying off, as was shown today and in the second place I took on the final stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía. It’s always good to win and when you go so close it’s hard to take because I could have taken the yellow jersey, but Klöden was that little bit stronger and I can only congratulate him.”
Sánchez, who now has a career-record of 32 second places, also pointed out that there is plenty of racing still to be done before the finish in Nice, but it could well be that his chance of a first-ever success in “the race to the sun” has gone.