Monday, April 02, 2012

"Ibán set the bar high for me"

Samuel Sánchez will once again line up in the Vuelta al País Vasco as one of the main contenders today. While overall glory has famously eluded Samu in the team's home race, the same can be said of Euskaltel. Not since Ibán Mayo cantered to the top step of the podium almost nine years ago have a rider in the orange jersey triumphed. Sánchez finished third back then, and recalled what he calls 'a special moment in the history of this team' when he talked to Deia yesterday.

"We turned the race around on the last day", he said of the day Ibán won both the road race in the morning and then the time trial in the evening. "It was one of the most special moments in the team's history. Ibán Mayo set the bar high with his win".

Samu has finished on the podium three times, taken five stages and a tenth overall from his very first participation is to date his worst performance. So what's kept him from triumphing in a race seemingly tailor-made for a rider of his characteristics?

"There's only one reason I haven't won it yet", he said. "It's because of the quality of the competition. It's a very hard race to win".

Samu has made changes to his usual early-season calendar this year, and embarks on País Vasco fresh off a stage win and second overall in the Volta a Catalunya. His DS, Gorka Gerrikagoitia, believes the change in schedule has paid dividends - and says Samu is in top shape.

"This year he's not in good shape - he's in very, very good shape! He's dropped Paris-Nice and Critérium International in favour of the Vuelta a Andalucía, Vuelta a Murcia and the Volta this season, and I think it's been good for him."

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