Samuel Sánchez has drawn on the positives of what has been a season of near misses for the Euskaltel-Euskadi captain in 2009. Despite only taking one victory - at the GP Llodio in March - the 31-year-old told Cyclingnews that has been pleased with his performances throughout the year.
"It was a very good year for me, especially the consistency that I showed during a big part of the season," said Sanchez. "I would have liked to get more wins; I’ve got a very big collection of second places, but I think one should look at the positive side of everything.
The Olympic road race champion pointed to his second place finish at the Vuelta a España in September as his personal highlight of the 2009 season. A favourite for victory in the Grand Tour, Sánchez finished 55 seconds behind compatriot Alejandro Valverde.
"The best thing was to be up there in the Vuelta a España, fighting it out with Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso. I think it was a beautiful race and we were all there battling it out until the end."
Third overall at the Vuelta in 2007 and second this year, Sánchez said Valverde was a deserved winner of his first Grand Tour title. For Sánchez it was the closest he has come to his own maiden victory in a three-week race.
"This year I was 55 seconds behind Alejandro. It's a short distance, but I didn’t perform well enough to be able to step at the top of the podium," said Sánchez. "In order to win a Grand Tour you have to be the most consistent rider in the race. I had a bad day on stage eight to [Alto de] Aitana when I was injured in a crash and the next day I was affected badly by [my injuries]."
Despite his regard for the Vuelta as a highlight, he cites the stage eight crash as one of the incidents that marked low points in his season. "I suffered an injury at the beginning of the year that delayed my preparation a great deal and it was the crash in the Vuelta that held me back from an even higher finish in the general classification," he said.
Asked how he had reacted to teammate Mikel Astarloza’s positive doping test during the Tour de France, Sánchez said the greatest impact had been on the team as whole. "I was distanced from it because I was preparing myself for the Vuelta," he said. "I wanted to isolate myself in order to remain focused and waited for the news to come.
"The team was affected at that time, but I think we were able to recover quickly. We won three races in a week. That was important to us: to maintain our aggressiveness and show it through winning."
Sanchez is currently on holidays with his family in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. He will return to Spain soon and begin to plan for next season when his team meets at the end of the month. He mooted that a start at the Tour de France could make a return to his race programme, after he skipped this year's edition of the French Grand Tour.
"I need to recover from this season first. On November 30 we will have a meeting with the team and then we will decide next year’s calendar. It seems as though the Tour de France is going to be the main goal, but it is still too early to say for sure."
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