By Justin Davis, Copyright Agence France Presse 2005
Spanish rider Luis Sanchez may have remembered on Sunday – when he won the Tour Down Under – more than any other days the reason he first took up cycling.
Sanchez’s father, a policeman in Spain, was injured in a terrorist attack when Sanchez was just five years old and doctors told him cycling would aid his rehabilitation.
The bikes he bought for his two sons at the same time gave Luis a taste for the sport, and before long he was hooked on the sport.
Eventually, and despite angering his family, he ended his studies at 18 to follow his passion.
He was discovered by former ONCE manager Manolo Saiz three years ago, and since then has been an integral part of the Liberty team’s armoury.
On Sunday, the promise that emerged when he came second in the national time trial championships last year was confirmed when he held on to a 35-second lead over teammate Allan Davis to claim his first international stage race.
”I didn’t really come into the race thinking about the overall win, so it’s really important for me,” said Sanchez. “But it’s equally important for the team because we worked really hard throughout the winter. Hopefully this will be our springboard for a successful season.”
Sanchez, whispered some of his team staff, could become the next Miguel Indurain, the five-time winner of the Tour de France and the last Spaniard to do so.
Sanchez, howver, was quick to put things right.
“I would like and I’ve dreamt of having even one-half the quality and the capability that he had,” he smiled modestly.
Nonetheless, given his performances this week, it seems he has a bright future.
Sanchez took a major step to winning the race when he won a difficult stage on Thursday, joining a 26-man breakaway which left the remaining 66 riders in the peloton at over 30 minutes behind and capping it by attacking in the final 20 kilometers to win the stage.
He took the race lead ahead of his Australian teammate Davis, and never looked back, even attacking on a difficult climb on Saturday before handing teammate Alberto Contador the stage win.
Sanchez may now have done enough to convince Saiz that he is worth a place on his Tour de France team. Before then, he is set on helping the more experienced leaders of his team during their stage race campaigns this spring, although he wouldn’t look out of place going for victory on some of those races himself.
“It’s great to win here, but later on I’ll be turning my attention back to the team leaders in the bigger stage races like Paris-Nice and hopefully the Tour de France,” he said. “They’re the guys who are preparing themselves for those races, and I’ll be there to help them.”
And the possibility of fulfilling his dream of riding the Tour de France?
“I spoke to Manolo before I came out here to Australia, and we spoke about it,” he said. “It’s a strong possibility.”
And that possibility is at least a little stronger a week later.