The Euskaltel leader put in a stellar ride to enter the top ten for the first time in this year's Vuelta a España on Sunday.
The 35-year-old finished up 12th on the brutally hard 15th stage from Andorra la Bella to the summit of the feared Peyragudes. The stage included more than 5000 metres of climbing, 225 kilometres of racing and four category.1 climbs - meaning it was no surprise to see the top riders cement their place at the top of the general classification.
While talented Frenchman Alexandre Geniez grabbed the biggest win of his young career by breaking free from his breakaway companions and soloing to the line, main contenders Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Horner, Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodríguez and Domenico Pozzovivo stayed together to the finish. Despite riding seemingly on his limit, Euskaltel's main go-to guy Sánchez bravely attacked the group of favourites a couple of times on the final climb. While he wasn't successful in distancing them, he limited his losses well enough to rise from 11th to ninth overall.
Coming in not far behind in 17th was Igor Antón, the popular climber now occupying a healthy 15th overall.
- (1, Alexandre Geniez (FDJ.fr), 6:20:12)
- 12, Samuel Sánchez, 3:56
- 17, Igor Antón, 5:24
- 24, Mikel Landa, 7:24
- 36, Egoi Martínez, 13:06
- 50, Juan José Oroz, 16:23
- 88, Mikel Nieve, 26:49
- 127, Jorge Azanza, 35:09
- 140, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
- 144, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.