By Hernan Alvarez
Spain's Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has had a relatively quiet year after a stellar 2006 season when he ended the year with a solo victory in the one-day classic, the Championship of Zurich. Always an animator of the races, Sanchez is back in action at the Vuelta a Burgos as preparation for September's Vuelta a España.The Euskaltel-Euskadi star has been preparing for his main goal, the Vuelta.
Sanchez spent last season as one of the most attacking riders in the peloton, using his power to nab stage wins in the Vuelta a España, a second place in La Flèche Wallonne and the Tour of Lombardy. He also took two stages of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and wore the leader's jersey until the final stage time trial. This season he's scaled back his calendar a bit, but still managed stage wins in the Basque Tour - this time in the final time trial - and a mountain top win ahead of Alexander Vinokourov on the final day of the Volta a Catalunya.
Cyclingnews caught up with the Spaniard in his hometown of Oviedo where he was busy training for the Tour of Spain. "I'm in a preparation phase right now," said Sanchez. "I have to race the Vuelta a Burgos to start getting into the rhythm of competition. I hope to reach the Vuelta in good condition in order to do it well. Now I still have to face the Vuelta a Burgos as part of the preparation to reach Vigo in good condition at the start of the Vuelta."
Before Burgos, Sanchez took part in the Clasica a San Sebastian, but only to gain form. He limited himself to finishing the competition, coming in 105th place among 117 riders. "It was positive for me," he said of San Sebastian. "I was able to finish the race. It was a good 230-kilometer training to start getting the rhythm. [This kind of race] makes you know where your place in race is and know your weak points in order to keep on training for the next races."
Sanchez started the Vuelta a Burgos still with the goal of gaining fitness and building race speed. "I have expectations to get into the rhythm of competition and gain fitness little by little. Not more. I won't go for any stage win or personal achievements. I think the goal is clear, it is the Vuelta a España. And we must go easy up to there - accumulating racing kilometres and nothing else. We won't put engines at full speed there in Burgos."
A versatile rider, Sanchez has had success on just about every type of parcours, and this kind of talent just isn't something that can be trained. "I think it is a bit innate," Sanchez said. "I think it is in your genes. Riders of my style are very profitable for any kind of team in Europe, because I can win climbing, going down, in a flat finish, in a bunch sprint, in a time trial."
Despite being the kind of rider who can perform throughout the year and who would be a desirable acquisition for just about any team, Sanchez has remained loyal to the Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi team since the start of his professional career in 2000. His loyalty to Spain has also translated into a preference for the Vuelta over the Tour de France - a race which he hasn't started since 2003.
"I think that doing two Grand Tours in one year is to much one's body much," Sanchez explained why he prefers to sit out the sport's biggest race. "This way I have time to be able to rest during the Tour de France and to prepare myself well with good workouts thinking of the Vuelta a España. So indeed I reach (Vuelta) a bit more rested than the ones who raced the Tour."
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