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Sanchez with lucky number 8 for Tour of Beijing

Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) at the team introductions.

Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) at the team introductions. (Image credit: Susi Goetze for

The number eight has special meaning not only for the Chinese, who believe it is a lucky number, but also for Samuel Sanchez, who became Olympic road race champion in Beijing in 2008 wearing back number eight. On his return to the Chinese capital this week, the Euskaltel-Euskadi leader was offered, appropriately, the honour of wearing the Tour of Beijing's number one race bib - but the Spaniard politely declined, preferring to take the number eight instead.

"The Chinese fans will be looking for me to wear number eight and in any case I would prefer to have it," Sanchez said. Race organisers quickly agreed to his request and the switch was made.

Sanchez is ready for the challenge ahead but philosophical about his chances of another Beijing victory. The only stage suited to his abilities as a climber is stage three from Men Tou Gou to Yong Ning Town.

"It will be a very difficult race for me. It is a race for the sprinters, not the climbers. Of course I prefer stage three and I hope I will have a chance to win it," said the Spaniard, who still wears a gold Olympic rings ear-stud and a tattoo on his right shoulder in memory of his Olympic title.

The five-day Tour features two decisive stages: the 11.3 kilometre individual time trial in the grounds of Beijing's Olympic Park on Wednesday, and the hilly stage on day three, a 162 kilometre journey including one Cat. 2 and three Cat 1. ascents, on Friday.

Stage one provides the opportunity for newly-crowned world time trial champion, Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), not only to debut his rainbow jersey but to impose himself on the race from the outset. But the relative shortness of the course could also mean that attacks on Friday could be decisive.