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Sánchez to take aim at Tour

This year’s Tour de France should be a very hotly contested one, with scores of candidates staking their claim as a potential Tour victor.

Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez is the latest big name to announce he will make an all-out push for the podium at the Tour de France this summer.

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Samuel Sánchez has high hopes for the 2010 Tour de France. - Graham Watson file photo

Sánchez has finished as high as sixth overall, in 2008, and believes he has the legs to pull within shot of the podium.

“I like the route this year for the Tour,” he said. “It fits my characteristics. To say to `win’ are big words, but I think I could be capable of finishing on the podium.”

The 31-year-old Euskaltel-Euskadi captain skipped last year’s Tour to focus solely on the Vuelta a España and the world championships. The tactic worked well enough, with Sánchez reaching a career-best second at the Vuelta and a somewhat disappointing fourth in the men’s road race.

Sánchez said with this year’s world’s course in Australia “too flat” for his style of racing, he’ll bet everything on trying to finish among the best in the French tour.

“My crash cost me in the Vuelta and I lost 50 seconds when I didn’t need to,” Sánchez said of the Vuelta. “In grand tours, the key is to be consistent, and in this regard, Alejandro (Valverde) was better than me. I still believe I can win a grand tour some day and that’s what I will focus on in the coming years.”

Sánchez has already outlined his racing calendar. He will make his debut at the Volta a Algarve next month and then race at Paris-Nice. That will be followed by Critérium International and the Volta a Catalunya ahead of the Vuelta a País Vasco, one of the season highlights for the Basque team.

Somewhat surprisingly, Sánchez is hinting he might skip the spring classics, where he rode well last year, with fourth at Flèche Wallonne and 10th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

He’ll hone his Tour form at either the Dauphiné Libéré or the Tour de Suisse before the Tour, which begins July 7 in Rotterdam, Holland.

Sánchez said he will decide after he sees how things go in the Tour before making up his mind on whether or not he’ll race the Vuelta a España.

Sánchez turned pro in 2003 and quickly made a name as one of the most fearless descenders in the sport. He won a breakthrough stage at the 2005 Vuelta and finished 10th. Victories at the GP Zurich in 2006 and three stage victories and third overall at the 2007 Vuelta confirmed his potential.

Sánchez’ stunning victory in Beijing has only whetted his appetite for the biggest prizes in cycling.

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