Luis Leon Sanchez doesn’t mind being on his own — which is why he often wins in breakaways. In recent interviews, the talented Spaniard has admitted that last year at Rabobank was both hard personally and professionally. He felt isolated in the Dutch squad and other than a big win in stage nine of the Tour de France, results were meager.
But like his compatriot Oscar Freire — who also rode for Rabobank — Sanchez seems to able to perform at a high level with minimal team support. If teammates chase down a break, great, if not, he’s got the legs for the task at hand.
His win today over Jens Voigt in stage 6 at Paris-Nice was confirmation that he’s off to a good start in 2012. He smoked the German in the final sprint as they beat the peloton into Sisteron by just 14 seconds. When Voigt was forced to lead out his chances for victory dropped to zero. Garmin-Barracuda’s Heinrich Haussler took a booby prize third place which had fans wondering why Garmin hadn’t worked a little harder.
The definitive break formed on the second climb of the Cote du Pas du Ventoux. Sanchez and Voigt made the escape along with Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil), Simon Geschke (Project 1T4i), Mickael Cherel (AG2R), Anthony Geslin (FDJ) and Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank).
They pushed the gap out the gap to race leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky) to four minutes — which put Sanchez in virtual yellow as he’d started the day 3:51 down. Sky woke up and cut that in half with 30 kilometers to go. Sanchez drove the pace on the lower sections of the Cote des Marquises, before Voigt put the hammer down, dumping everyone but LL Cool Spaniard.
Bradley Wiggins arrived in town still in yellow, six seconds ahead of Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and ten over Levi Leipheimer (Omega-Pharma Quickstep). No worries for the skinny Brit who has just tomorrow’s stage to Nice before Sunday’s grand finale — the time trial up the Col d’Eze.
Even Wiggins was happy for Sanchez as he tweeted after the race “Pleased for Luis Leon Sanchez, Class act on a bike, great win.” Sanchez, who won Paris-Nice, the Race to the Occasional Sun back in 2009, isn’t going to make the podium this year. But look for the 2010 Spanish Time Trial Champion to put on a show against the clock.
While his Dutch language skills are improving, Sanchez doesn’t have to say much today after his big win. Just smile and spray the champagne — you don’t need Rosetta Stone to understand that one.