Sammy Sanchez talks podium in Tour. Nada chance.

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What’s the Basque word for “optimist?”

Samuel Sanchez scored a stage win in the 2011 Tour de France and won the King of the Mountains prize. He’s aiming even higher for the next Grande Boucle with the object of a podium position. Sounds like crazy talk from Orange Man number one.

“My objective will be the Tour,” Sánchez told the Spanish TV Teledeportes. “For a cyclist, the Tour is the maximum.” Is little Sammy drinking just a little too much kalimotxo?

Sanchez climbed his way to sixth place in France but it will be tough to go higher in Le Tour 2012 — for the same reason why Andy Schleck will have trouble finishing with the yellow jersey in Paris — those 100 kilometers of time trialing.

In being late December, the Euskatel-Euskadi captain is talking the talk. “If they told me that things in 2012 will go as they did this year, I’ld sign up for that. It was a good Tour for me and my team, we were on the final podium and we won a stage,” said Sanchez. “I had a bad day on the Galibier to lose options for the podium, but this year, I have to be on the same line and the podium can be within reach. I will fight to be in the battle. Contador is there for the win, because he has the experience.”

Depending on the ruling of the Court for Arbitration in Sports, El Pistolero may or may not be riding the Tour. That moves Sanchez up a notch but the little climber from Oviedo isn’t much against the chrono.

It takes the support of a good team and a smart director sportif to ride your way onto the podium. In the next Tour de France, Sanchez will be missing the wisdom and experience of Igor Gonzales de Galdeano, who resigned a few months back.

RadioShack-Nissan’s Chris Horner called the 2012 race route “soft.” That’s a relative term given that it’s the hardest bike race in the world. But compared to more grueling editions, this tour route is soft. Not many mountains and hill top finishes for a whipped like Sanchez to take time.

A weakness in the time trial and no Igor make it seem unlikely that Sanchez will break into the top three at Le Tour. But it’s late December and every stage racer is an optimist.

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