The dust has barely settled from the spring classics and several top riders are already turning their focus to the Tour de France.
Among them is Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who will return to the Tour after skipping it last year in favor of the Vuelta a España and world championships.
“I am completely focused on the Tour de France,” Sánchez told the Spanish wire service EFE. “I have already begun my preparations for the month of July. I will race in the Dauphiné Libéré in June and maybe the national championships if I am feeling good.”
Like compatriot Alberto Contador (Astana), who examined the important cobblestoned sectors for stages in Belgium, Sánchez will also make a trek north to preview the infamous pavé.
Sánchez knows the inclusion of the cobblestones and other challenging stages in the north of France, Belgium and Holland should not be under-estimated.
For his own chances, he’s trying to remain optimistic. After taking third in the 2007 Vuelta and second in 2009, Sánchez believes he has possibilities for the top-three podium. His best Tour finish was sixth in 2008.
“Right now I feel very strong, but I am also cautious. It’s too early to try to measure your strength,” he said. “You have to look at respect to the Tour, which is the best in the world, because you cannot commit one mistake. It doesn’t matter how strong you are going into the race, if you make one mistake, you can be out of the race.”
The Olympic champion says Contador is the clear favorite and that could work in his favor as all eyes will be on the defending champion and Lance Armstrong (RadioShack).
“The Tour this year will be beautiful, especially with the polemic between Armstrong and Contador, even though for me, Alberto Contador is the big favorite,” he said. “Spanish riders should be right in the heat of the action.”
Sánchez says he still hasn’t made up his mind if he will race the Vuelta or the world championships. This year’s world’s course in Australia isn’t ideal for his talents, but Sánchez typically finishes the season strong, with strong rides at the worlds and Giro di Lombardia.