Luís León Sánchez, who pipped compatriot and friend Alberto Contador to win last year’s Paris-Nice, won’t be back to defend his title in 2010.
The Caisse d’Epargne rider said he doesn’t want the pressure of riding Paris-Nice as defending champion and instead will race in Tirreno-Adriatico and avoid a showdown with Contador in the Race to the Sun.
“We already fixed my racing schedule during the team’s training camp,” Sánchez said. “This year, the idea was to start with more tranquility than the previous years. In Paris-Nice, as the defending champion, I would have had to face a lot of pressure from the first to last day. It requires a lot of energy to win a race like that and that’s why we thought it would be a good idea to change the program and participate in Tirreno.”
In last year’s Paris-Nice, Sánchez rode to a dramatic solo victory in the 191km stage 7 from Manosque to Fayence, finishing 49 seconds ahead of a trio of riders that included eventual runner-up Frank Schleck.
Contador started the stage as race leader after having won the previous day’s stage nearly a minute ahead of Schleck and Sánchez, but faltered on the mountainous course, ceding nearly three minutes to Sánchez and eventually finished fourth overall.
Contador has already said winning Paris-Nice and taking revenge on his bad day from last year’s edition is one of his top early season goals for 2010.
Sánchez and Contador, who are close friends from when they started their professional careers at ONCE, will square off at the Volta ao Algarve later this month.
Sánchez, meanwhile, says he wants to ride into the 2010 season “easier”
than he typically does, in large part with ambitions of making a strong run at the Tour de France in July. The Spanish rider has won a stage in the past two editions of the Tour and wants to go for the hat-trick.
He’ll race next week at the Mallorca Challenge and the Algarve tour before heading to Tirreno, where he will race for the first time.
“The (Tirreno) route is an interesting one and I like it, with a long time trial, a stage finishing with a mountaintop and a middle mountain stage,” he said. “I will try to be at the front and gain a good result before competing in Milan-San Remo, where, like I did last year, I will try to surprise the sprinters.”
After Milan-San Remo, he’s scheduled to race the Vuelta al País Vasco, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège before preparing in earnest for the Tour.