Pedalling towards the start of stage five of the Tour de Pologne, Samuel Sánchez (BMC Racing Team) grins broadly when Cyclingnews asks if he might be joining fellow Spanish veterans Haimar Zubeldia (Trek-Segafredo) and Angel Vicioso (Katusha-Alpecin) in making 2017 his last season.
"I don't know, yet," Sánchez, who will turn 40 next February, says. "I might continue, the team is very pleased with me and I'm very pleased with them. BMC Racing feels like a second home to me. Let's wait and see what happens in the Vuelta a España. I don't want to get obsessed about retirement."
The first half of Sánchez's season was marked by a major crash just as he was sprinting towards what could well have been his first victory of the season. Having bolted off the front close to the summit of Mount Arrate in the Vuelta al País Vasco, less than 800 metres from the line, Sánchez looked close to winning. But a strange crash left him out of the running and with a huge number of scrapes and bruises all over his body. He also cut one of the tendons in his left hand, which needed surgery.
Sánchez was almost equally unfortunate in the Vuelta a España last year, crashing badly on the highly technical finale of the last time trial in Calpe and being forced to abandon as a result.
Rather than whether he retires or not, the former Olympic Road Race Champion and 2011 Tour de France king of the mountains says, "First I want to get through this race, see how I feel, and hit the top-end form. I've not raced for quite a while, it took me a long time to get over the Vuelta al País Vasco crash, and first I have to concentrate on the Vuelta a España and then we'll see."
Sánchez, who turned pro in 2000 and who has been riding for BMC Racing since 2014, says that he's completely recovered from his crash in the Itzulia, but that his knee swelled up badly after Liège-Bastogne-Liège and needed further treatment. Pologne is his first race back since he finished the Route du Sud on June 18th, and "getting 10 days off the bike then was what really turned things around."
His objectives in the Vuelta a España are as vague as taking it "day by day," but that's not a question of choice. "Looking at the way the route is designed this year, you can't say anything else. There are just too many random factors. It's a really complicated course with some kind of special challenge every single day." After that he will go on as far as Il Lombardia before ending his season.
The one thing that is clear for the moment is that he will only sign for one more year at a time. "That's only logical when you're any older than 35."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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