Samuel Sánchez had quite the weekend. The Olympic road champion pulled the double Sunday to win the mountaintop finish and claim the overall in the fifth and final stage at the Vuelta a Burgos in northern Spain.
Sánchez, fourth overall at the 2010 Tour de France, also penned a two-year extension that will keep him in an Euskaltel-Euskadi jersey through 2012.
“We are very content. We made a Vuelta a Burgos to remember,” Sánchez said after his one-second overall victory. “Three stage victories with three days in the leader’s jersey, the last one definitive, makes it for a race to remember. Every year we set new goals and this is the fruit of the work of the entire team.”
On Sunday, “Samu” rode with fierce determination to fend off Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) to win the decisive climbing stage to Lagunas de Neila high in the Sierra de la Demanda.
Overnight leader Gianpaolo Caruso (Katusha) couldn’t withstand the pressure from the leading trio on the steep climb, losing the wheel and losing the leader’s jersey on the final ramps. Igor Antón set up his teammate perfectly and Sánchez had the legs to fend off Mosquera by one second in the stage and take the overall.
Somewhat surprisingly, the overall title is Sánchez’s first stage race victory of his otherwise prolific career.
The other big news was the announcement that Sánchez will stay with Euskaltel, a testament to his long-time association with the team. Sánchez is unique that he’s the only non-Basque rider on the team (he’s from Spain’s Asturias region further west along Spain’s northern coast).
Like many on Euskaltel, it’s the only team he’s ever raced for. He raced as an amateur in Basque Country and was “adopted” as one of their own by the Euskaltel-Euskadi outfit, turning pro with the team in 2000.
“Euskaltel-Euskadi is the only team I’ve known and if I am sincere I never imagined myself in any other jersey,” Sánchez said over the weekend. “Even though I had other offers and I’d like to publicly thank the teams for their interest in me. I never turned down an offer, but rather made the choice that’s right for me.”
Sánchez will not race the Vuelta a España and will focus on late-season one-day races and likely a trip to the world championships in Australia.