Sensational Sanchez too strong for O'Grady

Liberty Seguros take a firm grip at the Tour Down Under, as the precocious Luis Leon Sanchez takes t

Liberty Seguros take a firm grip at the Tour Down Under, as the precocious Luis Leon Sanchez takes t
PICTURE BY TDWSPORT.COM The Tour Down Under took on a decidedly more serious note here on Thursday, as Liberty Seguros rider Luis Sanchez gave a hint of the talent that his team already hope will help him follow in the footsteps of the legendary Miguel Indurain, writes Justin Davis. After two days of Robbie McEwen demonstrating his sprinting prowess, the 92-strong peloton decided enough was enough as the race headed into the hills. A 26-man breakaway formed which included Stuart O'Grady, Bradley Wiggins, Allan Davis and Matthew Wison, and they used the windy conditions perfectly to slowly build a lead which, by the end, had almost eliminated the stragglers. Thirty-one minutes before the 66 latecomers ambled over the beachside finish line, beating elimination by a whisker, a cool Sanchez threw his arms in the air. He easily held off Dutchman Johan Van Summeren, the only rider capable of following when the 21-year-old Spaniard left his breakaway companions with 20km still to ride in a bid for victory. Discovered by Manolo Saiz three years ago, Sanchez is already considered something of a rarity. Last season as a new pro he came second in the Spanish time trial championship and claimed two victories, one of which included beating Iban Mayo in the Clasica Alcobendas time trial. It is only a matter of time before Saiz's Liberty team unleashes him on the Tour de France, but his early season objectives are a bit more modest. "I didn't really come here to win the race, I did a lot of training in the winter but my main aim for the early season is Paris-Nice," said the tall, skinny Spaniard. Naturally, Sanchez's first win of the season - and the early breakaway which Cofidis seemed to totally miss - had major implications for the general classification, and therefore O'Grady's bid for a third victory here. Among the likely overall contenders, Liberty sprinter Davis was sixth at 18 seconds, with O'Grady in 10th. A dejected O'Grady only had team-mate Jans Koerts to help him against the four Liberty riders in the breakaway group. And after coming under some close scrutiny from Davis, then running out of juice as Sanchez launched his attack, O'Grady admitted his aspirations had all but vanished. "Allan Davis was watching my wheel very closely," said the 31 year old, who is now fifth overall, 20 seconds behind new overall leader Sanchez. "It's going to be very difficult. Liberty have an extremely strong team here and now they have quite a few cards to play. We'll see how they get on in the next couple of days, but it makes our job a lot more difficult to try and win from now on." It now looks likely that Saiz's Liberty outfit only have to get behind Sanchez or Davis to secure their first stage race victory of the season. Davis said: "We were expecting a tough start to the stage and that's what happened. But full credit to the guys, they were in everything today and it worked out well. We had four in the breakaway, so if we didn't get one up the road we would have been on the end of the whip tonight! "We've got a big job in front of us, but I think Luis can hold on. I said to Gene Bates about 10km up the road that this guy (Sanchez) has come second in the national time trial championship last year. He's an awesome rider, a big talent - get used to hearing his name." Stage 3, Glenelg-Victor Harbor 1 Luis Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 139km in 3.19.39 (41.77kph) 2 Johan van Summeren (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 3 Gene Bates (Aus) UNISA 0.16 4 Robert McLachlan (Aus) United Water 5 Javier Ramirez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 6 Allan Davis (Aus) 0.18 Liberty Seguros 7 Paride Grillo (Ita) Panaria 8 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Fdjeux.com 9 David McPartland (Aus) United Water 10 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis Overall 1 Luis Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 8.03.46 2 Van Summeren 0.02 3 Davis 0.13 4 Grillo 0.15 5 O'Grady 0.20 6 Bates 7 McLachlan 0.22 8 Ramirez 9 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Liberty Seguros 0.24 10 Renshaw 27 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 31.50
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