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Precocious Liberty Seguros star Luis Leon Sanchez will return to Adelaide in January to defend his crown in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. The 22-year-old Spaniard won this year's race and the third stage at the start of a breakthrough season that has brought growing comparisons with Spanish stage-racing great Miguel Indurain.
Sanchez started cycling at the age of four when his father, who was in the Spanish Civil Guard, was injured in a terrorist attack and began cycling for rehabilitation. Sanchez and one of his brothers went riding with their father and by the time he turned 18 he knew he wanted a career in professional cycling.
Sanchez will have strong support from a Liberty Seguros team that includes Australian Allan Davis, who finished second overall in the TDU back in January. "I reckon there'll be a fair bit of pressure on our team to perform considering how dominant we were in this year's race," said Davis. "Luis Leon is always in good form early in the season and I pretty sure he'll be trying to claim the title again."
Davis, 25, has just celebrated an addition to his family when wife Andrea gave birth to a son, Harrison Allan Davis, in Bundaberg Base Hospital. The couple already have a daughter, Brooklyn, who is three years old. Davis fully expects a little sleep deprivation but won't let that hamper his preparation.
"I probably won't be as race fit as I was this year but I'm putting down a solid base and I want to do well in January," said Davis, who expects the sprints to be explosive with 2005 Tour de France green jersey champion Thor Hushovd (Crdit Agricole) and this year's triple Tour de France stage-winner Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) the ones to beat.
"That will be a showdown for sure but it's really another day at work and it's nothing new for me to mix it with them," he said. "The problem is beating them."
Davis, who has ridden every Tour Down Under since its inception in 1999, is also determined to finally score a stage win, something that has eluded him for the past seven races. "I really would love to win a stage next year and that will be my aim come January," said Davis. "That and the team picking up the overall again would be a great result."
The TDU organisers have also confirmed that the Bouygues Telecom team will make its Tour Down Under debut in 2006. Their team of eight Frenchmen includes sprinter Sebastien Chavanel, who this year won three stages and the points classification of the Tour de l'Avenir.
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