Friday, March 02, 2012

Samu relishing TT challenge

The slimmed-down 2012 edition of the Vuelta a Murcia will be held this weekend, and Euskaltel captain Samuel Sánchez will be one of the major attractions. Despite the race now offering participants only two days of racing due to budgetary shortfalls, the 34-year-old is looking forward to Sunday's individual time trial - if only because it's good training for what's to come in July.

"This new-look race format includes a very demanding 200km stage taking in the Collado Bermejo only six kilometres from the line. And then there's the 12km time trial where I hope to find my rhythm and perform well. Overall I really like the route. First there's a stage with a big climb, and then it's a time trial. The time trials will be very important in the Tour de France this year, so it's important to be prepared", he told

Sánchez is looking forward to duking it out with a number of the peloton's top stage racers this weekend, and admits his form is where it should be after his season debut in Andalucía.

"Big rivals like Gesink, Rodríguez, Menchov and Tiernan-Locke, the Brit who won the Tour de Méditerranée and the Tour du Haut Var, will be present. In Andalucía I enjoyed a good start to the season. I was right up there and riding well, save for the day I lost time because of a puncture. I was even close to winning a stage (stage 4) with a very explosive finish."

The Vuelta al País Vasco will as usual be the focal point of Samu's spring season. But before that, the world's third longest running stage race, the Volta a Catalunya, is on his calendar.

"This year's edition of Catalunya is very hard - it also includes a 16km, unknown climb in the Pyrenees to the Port-Ainé ski resort. There's no time trial though, so it'll be a very open race. I'll be looking to approach top form for País Vasco. I'd love to put on a good performance in the land of my team, much like we've done the last few years. After that I'll take a break before revving it up for the Tour de France and then the Olympics - it's possible to combine the two. Not having Contador there will be like a Roland Garros without Rafael Nadal or a Formula 1 world championship without Fernando Alonso. It's a big blow, but I know that he'll prepare well and return to winning ways".

Sánchez also had a few words for Alejandro Valverde, who's made his return to cycling with a bang.

"Valverde has come out of suspension and is immediately at 100 percent and winning. Him coming back is good for cycling".

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