Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez will return to the scene of his career-making victory when he lines up in the inaugural Tour of Beijing next month.
In the first of 18 team announcements for the Wednesday 5 to Sunday 9 October event, the Spaniard will lead his Euskatel-Euskadi teammates through the Chinese capital where he fought off hot and humid conditions and steep terrain to claim victory in the longest and one of the most grueling courses in Olympic history.
For Sánchez, who wears a gold helmet in honour of his Olympic success, the victory could not have been more career-defining.
"To be Olympic champion is the most beautiful thing that can happen to an athlete in the exercise of their activity. You're a global player, and that has an incalculable impact," Sánchez said.
"For me it means so much to return to where I was crowned Olympic champion. It was a very demanding race, with a very hard course and a spectacular goal, a beautiful place.
"The fight for the medals was very intense and I got an incredible victory that marked a before and after in my professional life."
For the first time since his Olympic victory, Sánchez will return to the city which will forever hold a cherished space in his heart, as one of the favourites for the Tour of Beijing.
"Without a doubt, it was one of the best experiences of my life and I will be happy to be back there, I know it will be a very special feeling. It was a beautiful experience and the return will be exciting," Sánchez said.
"I will go with a special motivation. We will try to give 100 per cent in this new race on our calendar.
"Cycling continues to globalise, we're getting further and further away to Australia, Canada and now China. This is great news that cycling gets to reach more sites and new evidence that enrich the calendar competitiveness.
"For me and for my team to travel to China is very exciting and we are committed to the public to enjoy a great spectator sport vibrant with cycling, the most wonderful sport.
"The biggest highlight was the great hospitality of the Chinese people. The kindness and education of the people was great, I'll always be grateful."
The race will be the UCI WorldTour's first venture into Asia, as cycling looks to extend the sport's cultural experience beyond the hub of Europe, and to support the increasing popularity building in North America and Australia.
Sanchez's inclusion in the Euskatel-Euskadi team is a coup for the race organizers. The 33-year-old has become one of the most marked riders on the UCI WorldTour, and enhanced his reputation this year by winning stage 12 of the Tour de France, the mountain-top finish of the famed Luz-Ardiden, on the way to securing the mountains classification and sixth placing overall.
The orange-clad Euskatel-Euskadi rider from the fanatically supported Basque region has won five stages of his home Vuelta a España, finishing second overall in 2009, and has finished fourth at the world championships on two occasions.
Sánchez will lead a formidable team in Beijing, including Tour de France regular Igor Anton - a four-time stage winner at the Vuelta a España and 2011 Giro d'Italia stage winner; 2011 Giro d'Italia stage winner Mikel Nieve; and Amets Txurruka, who was voted the most aggressive rider of the 2007 Tour de France.
Global Cycling Promotion event director Alain Rumpf is thrilled to have the Olympic champion returning to Beijing.
"It will be a real thrill to see Samuel Sanchez on the start line outside the Bird's Nest Stadium and it's great to see such as strong team line up from Euskatel – Euskadi also," Rumpf said.
"We look forward to confirming more riders and teams in the coming days and weeks as we countdown to the October 5 start of the inaugural event."
Euskaltel-Euskadi team for the Tour of Beijing: Igor Anton, Mikel Astarloza, Pierre Cazaux, Jon Izaguirre, Mikel Nieve, Alan Perez, Samuel Sanchez, Romain Sicard, Amets Txurruka. Reserves - Javier Aramendia, Mikel Landa.
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