Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) played it perfect Sunday to bring home another stage victory.
The 28-year-old from Murcia, known as “Lule” inside the Spanish peloton, has proven a consistent stage-hunter in the Tour, winning stages in four of the past five Tours.
He typically does it in a stage just like Sunday’s, with medium to difficult mountains, at a moment in the stage when the GC is settled and finished off with searing precision.
Speaking to VeloNews earlier this season, Sánchez talked about how he targets stages during the Tour.
“I tend to study the road book carefully and look for stages that fit my characteristics. Every year is different, sometimes there are more, sometimes less,” he said. “The idea is get into the right breakaway, with the right riders, on the correct day. It’s not so easy.”
Perhaps it’s not easy, but Sánchez, however, has made it look routine.
A strong time trialist and solid climber, Sánchez was once touted as a potential GC-caliber rider, but so far he’s struggled to deliver consistent results in three-week tours.
“I don’t have the legs to climb with the best in the high mountains,” Sanchez admitted. “I know since (Miguel) Indurain, the Spanish only think about the overall, but I am not built for that. I focus on winning stages and I hope I can keep adding to my tally.”
Sánchez’s Tour nearly didn’t happen this year, with a first-week crash that left him hobbled and on the edge of abandoning.
“I never gave up hope of getting into a breakaway and winning a stage,” Sánchez said. “I knew this stage was made for me. I really wanted to do something today, but when I saw Sagan and Gilbert in the break, I knew it would be impossible to beat them unless I attacked.”
A winner of weeklong races such as Paris-Nice, his best grand-tour results have been 10th, in both the Tour and Vuelta a España, both in 2010.
Since then, he’s focused on winning stages in high-profile races and working as a super-domestique for team captains.
The victory helps takes the edge off what’s been a rough Tour so far for the Rabobank boys. The team has lost more than half its lineup, with stars Robert Gesink, Mark Renshaw and Bauke Mollema all packing it in.
Stage winner: Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) wins his fourth career Tour stage.
Yellow jersey: With just five days to go, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) continues to lead ahead of teammate Chris Froome.
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) picked up more points to widen his lead to André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) to nearly 100 points with five days of racing left.
White jersey: Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) retained his lead of 1:54 in the under-25 jersey.
Polka-dot jersey: Fedrik Kessiakoff (Astana) retained his lead of 69-55 to Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
Best team: RadioShack-Nissan continues to hold the team classification despite not putting a rider into the day’s main break.
The peloton: One less
Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) was the day’s lone DNF; 162 riders remain in the race.
Farrar (GRS) and Bozic (AST) fined 50CHF, 10 seconds and 5 points for “rétropoussée sur voiture”
Grivko (AST), 30CHF for momentary drafting
Flickinger (EUC) — 200CHF infractions related to the circulation of vehicles on course.
Two press cars excluded from on-course itinerary tomorrow for excessive speed.
6km: Vorganov (Kat) — right thigh contusion; Bernaudeau (Euc) — small diverse cuts
60km: Fouchard (Cof) — large “dermabrasions” on left thigh with scraped left elbow and knee
153km: Kiserlovski (Ast) — fractured right clavicle, evacuated to hospital; Leipheimer (Opq) — left thigh scrape, dermabrasions
On course: Van Hummel (VCD) — treated for stomach pain
Weather: Continued warm
Summer-like conditions continue as the Tour pushes further south, with highs in the 80s, gusting winds and a chance of afternoon showers.
Monday’s stage: Breakaway or sprint?
The 99th Tour de France continues Monday with a transition stage from Samatan to Pau over the undulating hills north of the Pyrénées. The lumpy 158.5km stage features three rated climbs in the last two hours of racing, but there won’t be a flat road anywhere along the route. A breakaway is sure to pull clear in the first hour and it will be up to the sprinter teams to do the work to try to control the stage. Everyone will expect Lotto-Belisol and Orica-GreenEdge to do the chasing, so a break could well stay away this late in the Tour as more than two weeks of racing are starting to take a toll on the peloton.