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Sanchez to lead Rabobank in Santos Tour Down Under

Stage nine winner Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) on the podium.

Stage nine winner Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) on the podium. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Luis Leon Sanchez will lead Rabobank in the Santos Tour Down Under in January 2012, as the Dutch team became the first to confirm for the opening ProTour race of the new season, January 15-22. The Spaniard won the race in 2005 and finished second in 2006.

Sanchez will be supported by three strong Australian teammates, Graeme Brown, Michael Matthews and Mark Renshaw. Brown has won four stages at the TDU in the past, and the others have won one each.

"The Rabobank team line up is quite formidable with Luis Leon Sanchez leading the team. The experience in this strong team should show on the results board come January,” said race organizer Mike Turtur. "Having past winners continue to return to compete is a compliment to the level of fierce competition the race delivers."

"It is always fantastic to welcome back our Aussie champions to the race. Graeme and Mark tend to perform well here and we expect nothing different from them next year,” Turtur said.

Matthews made his professional debut at the race last year with Rabobank, and promptly won the third stage. The then-20-year-old outsprinted none other than Andre Greipel and Matthew Goss.

"Matthews has had a taste of victory here in Adelaide and I am sure he will be hungry for more come January,” Turtur said.

Rabobank will send Sanchez, Matthews, Renshaw, Brown, Tom Leezer, Jos Van Emden and Wilco Keldermann.