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It’s been a long year for Luis Leon Sanchez, and it’s not over yet

  • By Mark Johnson
  • Published Sep. 8, 2012
Luis Leon Sanchez studies the course before the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec. Photo: Mark Johnson | Ironstring

MONTRÉAL (VN) — On August 1, Spaniard Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) bolted from the start house at the London Olympics time trial, but he didn’t get far.

When the four-time Spanish national time trial champion pressed on his pedals, his chain snapped and fell to the starting deck. Four years of training and his Olympic dreams lying beneath him like a slim, mortally wounded snake, the 160-pound, 6-foot-1-inch Sánchez rolled down the ramp with his legs freewheeling helplessly.

That disastrous August day notwithstanding, Sánchez has had a roaring good year.

The 28-year-old from Murcia on Spain’s southeastern coast bagged his fourth national time trial championship, his fourth Tour de France stage win, and his second Clásica San Sebastián victory.

“Luisle,” as he is known by friends and teammates, is one of the most attacking riders in the pro peloton. Always a joy to watch because of his aggressive riding, Sánchez leapt from a wind-shattered breakaway during stage 6 of this year’s Paris-Nice. Riding into the Sisteron finish with like-minded Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) — a man who is also unafraid to attack relentlessly — Sanchez took the win by a wheel.

Sánchez, who won the Paris-Nice overall in 2009, took stage 14 of this year’s Tour de France in a similar fashion. Even though still recovering from injuries incurred in a stage-1 wreck and riding with only three Rabobank teammates left in contention, he tested his chain with a ferocious attack 4km from the summit of the stage’s third of four climbs, forcing a four-man selection that included he-men Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Phillipe Gilbert (BMC) and Sandy Casar (FDJ-Big Mat). Eleven kilometers from the finish, Sánchez strafed his breakaway companions again, soloed away and finished in Foix 47 seconds ahead of Sagan.

This weekend at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Montréal, Sánchez admitted that the long season is taking its toll on his mental fitness. After San Sebastián he raced the Vattenfall Classics in Germany and the GP Ouest France-Plouay in France.

While Sanchez finished with the field in Plouay, five seconds behind winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling), and 2:34 behind first-place Arnaud Demare (FDJ-BigMat) in Germany, he says his physical form isn’t bad at the moment.

“I’m not in bad condition — the only thing is that I’m a bit tired psychologically after such a long year,” he said.

The races in Québec and Montréal mark his first time in Canada, Sanchez said. He has heard that the Montréal course is not as taxing as Québec, where Sánchez finished on Friday in a shattered field and just a few spots ahead of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp).

After Canada, Sanchez returns to Europe where he will prepare for the world championships in Holland.

“Yes, in principle I’ll do the world’s time trial and road race,” he said. Clarifying, he states that he will do the team time trial event, a new UCI world championship event for trade teams.

Riding with his Rabobank TTT squad at worlds is especially important because the event takes place in the Netherlands, where Rabobank is based.

“You can imagine, worlds are in Holland and my team is Dutch. We’re going to work to race in the best manner possible. We’ll see — with good luck we’ll do well,” he said.

As for the Olympics, Sánchez says the broken chain still smarts.

Because the Olympics come only every four years, the disaster “stayed in my head for a long time, for days after,” he said. But with two stage wins and a 10th on GC at this year’s Tour of Romandie, plus a stage victory at April’s Vuelta Castilla y León, Sanchez has had plenty of victories to distract him from that fateful day.

Asked about the fearlessness he’s shown throughout the year and his career, Sanchéz gives a self-effacing smile and says: “Hombre, when you are going well, you don’t have fear. But let me tell you, I’m a bit tired at the end of the year and I don’t have the same force that I do when I’m going well. But, it’s okay, I feel like it’s more of a psychological tiredness than anything, and it’s been a long year!”

 

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