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Sanchez leads Euskaltel-Euskadi at Tour de France

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Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) leads Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on Luz-Ardiden.

Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) leads Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on Luz-Ardiden.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A beaming Samuel Sánchez has won the first Tour de France stage of his career.

A beaming Samuel Sánchez has won the first Tour de France stage of his career.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) was led home by his teammates

Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) was led home by his teammates
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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The orange armada of Euskaltel-Euskadi should find the hilly terrain to their liking.

The orange armada of Euskaltel-Euskadi should find the hilly terrain to their liking.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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A Cofidis and Euskaltel-Euskadi rider gather themselves after crashing.

A Cofidis and Euskaltel-Euskadi rider gather themselves after crashing.
(Image credit: Rafael Gómez Alonso)

Having missed the weekend's Spanish national championships, Samuel Sánchez has been named to lead the Euskaltel-Euskadi line-up for the 2012 Tour de France.

The defending mountains classification winner had long planned not to ride the nationals, instead using the Critérium du Dauphiné as his lead-up race.

Sánchez will be joined at the Tour by Mikel Astarloza, Jorge Azanza, Gorka Izagirre, Egoi Martinez, Ruben Perez, Amets Txurruka, Pablo Urtasun and Gorka Verdugo.

Sánchez has had a successful season to date and will look to better last year's result where he finished sixth on general classification. He finished second overall at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, won the overall and points classification at the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, and finished seventh at both Amstel Gold Race and Liège - Bastogne - Liège.

The 34-year-old crashed during the opening road stage of the Dauphiné, suffering a tear to his left latissimus dorsi muscle and an edema near his right fourth rib. He had two days off the bike before heading to the Sierra Nevada to begin his final preparations for the Tour. Sánchez said he believes that Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) will be the riders to beat.

"Wiggins is very strong and his Sky team is really very motivated," said Sánchez. "I also felt that Evans was going very well."