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Vuelta a Espana

Andrew Hood’s Vuelta Notebook

Reigning Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez says he doesn’t expect to, but still believes he can win the Vuelta a España. That’s how Sánchez assesses things after nearly a week of racing in the Vuelta, sitting 65th at 1:09 back. “Right now I don’t see myself winning, but I know that I am capable of doing it,” Sánchez said. “It’s the same thing as trying to finish in the top 10 at the Tour; it’s one thing to think but it’s altogether something else to actually do it.”

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By Andrew Hood

Reigning Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez says he doesn’t expect to, but still believes he can win the Vuelta a España.

That’s how Sánchez assesses things after nearly a week of racing in the Vuelta, sitting 65th at 1:09 back.

“Right now I don’t see myself winning, but I know that I am capable of doing it,” Sánchez said. “It’s the same thing as trying to finish in the top 10 at the Tour; it’s one thing to think but it’s altogether something else to actually do it.”

Sánchez skipped this year’s Tour to focus specifically on the Vuelta and the world championships in Mendrisio, a hilly route that favors his explosive style of riding.

Sánchez has struggled out of the gate so far in the Vuelta, underperforming in the opening prologue and then losing 18 seconds when the bunch split coming in for the sprint in stage 2.

“I believe the first big test will be the trio of stages, with the time trial in Valencia and the two summit finishes at Aitana and Xorret,” he said. “We’ll use one bike for the time trials and another one for the climbing stages, this, and changes in the weather, can really affect things.”

Fuglsang thanks lucky stars
Saxo Bank’s Jakob Fuglsang is thanking his lucky stars after his potentially dangerous crash in Tuesday’s accident-marred fourth stage into Liège.

Well before the finish line bedlam, the promising Danish star suffered a spectacular accident when he slipped on wet roads and veered straight into a parked semi-tractor-trailer parked on the side of the road.

“I was pushed to the rights and went straight into the truck,” Fuglsang said. “A spoke drove straight into my leg and it was a clean cut, right down to the bone.”

Despite the nastiness of the gash, the 24-year-old was otherwise uninjured besides some bumps and bruises when it could have been a lot worse. Fuglsang received stitches to his Tuesday evening and started Thursday’s stage with a few aches and pains.

“I have to admit it was a bit of a shock,” Fuglsang said. “I thought it was all over there for a moment.”

No pressure for Evans
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) isn’t putting too much pressure on himself at this year’s Vuelta a España.

Despite finishing fourth overall in the 2007 edition and his disappointing 30th place at the 2009 Tour de France, the Aussie all-rounder says he’s racing to Vuelta to prepare for the world championships.

“I still don’t know what happened to me at the Tour. I was training well, but I am not sure how well I am going to be able to perform at the Vuelta,” Evans told AS. “In principle, I am racing without any big ambitions. My initial idea is to race the Vuelta to get in shape for the worlds. They’re being held in Mendrisio, very close to my home in Europe. I know the circuit well, and if I arrive in good shape, I can hope to have a good race, because the course is pretty hard and it fits my characteristics.”

Evans said he will take it day by day, but admitted he isn’t planning on finishing the race, with a likely departure in the final week.

The heat is on
After complaining about the rain of Holland and Belgium, more than a few riders are going to be missing the cooler weather of Benelux.

The Vuelta pack was in for a shock for Thursday’s fifth stage, with temperatures into the high 90s and more heat forecasted throughout the remainder of the month.

The 2009 Vuelta hugs the Mediterranean Coast all the way into the third week before pushing north across the southern meseta toward Madrid. While coastal roads might benefit from a sea breeze, the intense Iberian sun will make it hard on everyone not psychologically prepared to sweat.

Follow Andrew Hood’s twitter at twitter.com/eurohoody