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Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne)

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)

Luis Leon renews with Caisse d'Epargne

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Luis Leon Sánchez, a winner of a stage in this year's Tour de France, has renewed with the Caisse d'Epargne team for two more years, through 2010. The winner of the stage to Aurillac as well as the final Paris-Nice stage had been in negotiations with the squad for weeks, and reached an agreement this week. "We have reached a satisfactory contractual agreement for all of us, both in the sporting and economic aspects; something that we have been trying to close in the last month, but now has been culminated with a contract for two years," he said.

Sánchez became the Spanish time trial champion in Talavera de la Reina in June, besting two veterans specialists Rubén Plaza (Benfica) and his team-mate, José Iván Gutiérrez. The 24-year-old said that this win in particular was important in the lead-up to the Tour de France. "It was something very special for me because I had long been looking for this victory. Additionally, it arrived at a very good moment, just before the Tour. It validated my participation and gave me moral support – showed that I was ready and willing," he told Cyclingnews from his home in Mula (Murcia).

He arrived to Brest on July 5th with the singular task of supporting the Caisse d'Epargne team leaders, Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro, but he did not have to sacrifice a taste of victory. "The Tour de France is my proving ground, my favourite race, but the team had a unique and very ambitious goal: to win the race or climb onto the podium."

He worked to be near Valverde and Pereiro to protect them at all times, but the team lost Pereiro to a crash on stage 15. "The fall of Pereiro affected us deeply, especially me, because I had to wait for him," he said. "But that happened after achieving my first victory in the Tour. Afterward I was in the breakaway on the stage which passed over the Col d'Aspin, but Riccò was a very strong, as you remember, but ...," he did not comment on the subsequent doping positive of the Italian.

"We also worked very hard in the finish at Super Besse, and something similar also happened," he said of Riccò's win on that day. "It is unfortunate that these matters continue to cloud the sport." While the team enjoyed its successes before the mountains, the second half was "unlucky" for the squad, Sánchez said. But he concluded that he is satisfied with his performance at the Tour, and has hopes for the future.

"It is clear that my performance in the high mountains is something I will have to revisit, but I'm not going to obsess about how I will go in the future or if I will be able to contend for the general classification. I prefer to go day by day, and right now, what counts is that I have finished this season after the Tour and need a rest [I still do not know where to go on vacation], because I started the season back in January at the Tour Down Under."

Baliani extends with CSF

Italian Fortunato Baliana extended his contract with the CSF Group Navigare squad through 2009. The 34-year-old, who finished 12th the Giro d'Italia and took home the Trofeo Fuga Cevélo of most aggressive rider as well as the intermediate sprint classification said he had contact with other teams, but decided to stay with CSF Group-Navigare for one more season.

"I hope to stay also in 2010," he said. "There is already a verbal agreement with Bruno. I feel very good in this team; I have my race schedule and I have my spaces to try to win a race. We are a solid group and I hope to end my career here."

Redant remains with Lotto

Directeur sportif Hendrik Redant extended his contract with the Silence-Lotto cycling team for three years. The Belgian, who guided the team to a second place in the Tour de France with Cadel Evans for two consecutive years reportedly was in contract negotiations with new Russian team Katusha, but decided to stay with his Belgian team.

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