Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez will return to Adelaide in January to defend his crown in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. The 22 year-old claimed the race lead on stage two of this year's Tour, won stage three, and was second on stage five where his Liberty Seguros team secured the top three stage places.
Sanchez started cycling at the age of four when his father, who was in the Spanish Civil Guard, was injured in a terrorist attack and began cycling for rehabilitation. His brother and he went riding with him and by the time he turned 18 he knew he wanted a career in professional cycling.
Pundits have touted him as the next Miguel Indurain (five time Tour de France winner) and in January he will have strong support from a Liberty Seguros team that includes Bundaberg cyclist, Allan Davis.
Davis finished second overall behind his team mate this year which set him up for an outstanding season on the UCI ProTour that saw him win the points classification of the Eneco Tour of Benelux and claim third place in both the HEW Cyclassics Cup in Hamburg and Paris-Tours.
"I reckon there'll be a fair bit of pressure on our team to perform considering how dominant we were in this year's race," said Davis. "Luis Leon is always in good form early in the season and I pretty sure he'll be trying to claim the title again."
25 year old Davis on Tuesday celebrated an addition to his family when wife Andrea gave birth to a son, Harrison Allan Davis, in Bundaberg Base Hospital. The couple already have a daughter, Brooklyn, who is three years old. Davis fully expects a little sleep deprivation but won't let that hamper his preparation.
"I probably won't be as race fit as I was this year but I'm putting down a solid base and I want to do well in January," said Davis, who expects the sprints to be explosive with 2005 Tour de France green jersey champion, Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and Queensland's Robbie McEwen, (Davitamon-Lotto) who has won 24 races this year, the ones to beat.
"That will be a showdown for sure, but it's really another day at work and it's nothing new for me to mix it with them," he said. "The problem is beating them."
Davis, who has ridden every Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under since its inception in 1999, is also determined to finally score a stage win, something that has eluded him for the past seven races.
"I really would love to win a stage next year and that will be my aim come January," said Davis. "That and the team picking up the overall again, would be a great result."
Fellow Queenslander, Aaron Kemps, will also line up in Adelaide for Liberty Seguros. The 22 year-old finished second in the Best Young Rider classification (behind Sanchez) in January and this year also secured a third place on the sixth stage of the Paris-Nice Tour.
Organisers have also confirmed that French registered Bouygues Telecom will make its Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under debut in 2006. The team of eight Frenchmen includes sprinter Sebastien Chavanel, who this year won three stages and the points classification of the Tour de l'Avenir and was second on the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar.
Liberty Seguros (Spa)
Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) 24.11.1983
Allan Davis (Aus) 27.07.1980
Carlos Barredo (Spa) 05.06 1981
Koen De Kort (Ned) 08.09.1982
Aaron Kemps (Aus) 10.09.1983
Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) 08.06.1985
Ivan Santos (Spa) 18.02.1982
Eladio Sanchez (Spa)
Team Manager: Marino Lejarreta (Spa)
Bouygues Telecom (Fra)
Walter Beneteau (Fra) 28.07.1972
Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) 25.08.1983
Sebastien Chavanel (Fra) 21.03.1981
Mathieu Claude (Fra) 17.03.1983
Vincent Jerome (Fra)
Rony Martias (Fra) 04.08.1980
Alexandre Pichot (Fra)
Pierre Drancourt (Fra) 10.05.1982
Team Manager: Christian Guiberteau (Fra)
More information: www.tourdownunder.com.au