By Monika Prell
A select group of favourites came in 1'03 behind Vuelta stage nine winner Leonardo Piepoli, and along with former gold jersey Vladimir Efimkin, Cadel Evans and Luis Perez was Euskaltel-Euskadi's leader Sammy Sánchez. Sánchez suffered through the time trial and lost four minutes to Devolder, but thanks to his climbing today he moved from 11th overall to 7th - just 14 seconds behind Devolder.
"The stage began very fast and from the start, there was a lot of action," Sánchez said. "A breakaway group with important riders was able to escape." The breakaway went after the first climb, and included José Gomez Marchante and Sánchez' team-mate Igor Antón. "Antón was shrewd and was able to go with this group, so we had not to assume any responsibility in the race."
"Once the breakaway was neutralised, the climb to Cerler was very fast. CSC set a very fast rhythm with [Iñigo] Cuesta, with the objective to launch [Carlos] Sastre, but [Denis] Menchov demonstrated that he is superior to all of us," Sánchez explained. "Yesterday he was already the strongest and today again. He is a level higher than we are, then there is Sastre and behind those two are some riders, like [Ezequiel] Mosquera, [Cadel] Evans and myself."
Up to this point, Samuel Sánchez is satisfied about his performance in the Vuelta. "I expect to continue to rise in the general classification, because I notice that I am progressing. Every day I feel better and I hope that this tendency will continue. Yesterday I had a good time trial and today I was the only one who had the heart to attack before [Denis] Menchov and [Leonardo] Piepoli."
The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider affirms that to attack is in his nature. "I am aggressive and I like to do something for a victory. You have to try it. I am now seventh in the general classification and there aren't many stages [to make these attacks]. Last year, I was seventh when we reached Madrid and this year I am already on this position after half of the Vuelta.
"Reaching the overall win will be difficult with [Denis] Menchov having this kind of form, but we will try to climb on the podium. I see myself with energy and appetite to continue attacking."
He sees difficult the stage of tomorrow. "Tomorrow will be a very hard day. After two days of big efforts, we will add a third one with a distance of 214 kilometres; three cols and the mountain top finish in Ordino Arcalis, an ascent of Hors category."
The plan for tomorrow is the following: "The recovery will be very important, we must to go into tomorrow's stage with the batteries charged at the maximum. The fatigue begins to become noticeable in the legs", stated Sánchez.
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