Liberty show future Tour potential

Robbie McEwen wraps up the final stage of the Tour Down Under, where Liberty's young Luis Leon Sanch

DAVIS Allan ( AUS ) / BARANOWSKI Dariusz ( POL ) / GONZALEZ GALDEANO Igor ( ESP ) / HRUSKA Jan ( CZE ) / SERRANO Marcos ( ESP ) / VANDEVELDE Christian ( USA ) / VICIOSO Angel ( ESP )

Robbie McEwen wraps up the final stage of the Tour Down Under, where Liberty’s young Luis Leon Sanch

PICTURE BY TDWSPORT.COM The more experienced campaigners of the European peloton have called for caution in labelling Spaniard Luis Sanchez as the new Miguel Indurain, but the Liberty team rider’s all-round potential was there for all to see after he secured victory on the Tour Down Under here on Sunday, writes Justin Davis. The seemingly unstoppable Robbie McEwen continued his early season form by dominating a bunch sprint at the end of the 81km inner city criterium to bag his third stage of the race and 11th overall at the TDU. But all eyes were on the man who is just kick starting a career, which many believe hides untold potential. Sanchez may have remembered on Sunday more than any other days the reason he first took up cycling. He took up the sport after his father, a policeman, bought him a bike to accompany him while he was recovering from injury sustained in a terrorist attack. Since then he has advanced quickly and last year came second in his national time trial championship. This week he has showed his climbing prowess following his stage-winning success on day three. A start at the Tour de France is now a possibility for the 21 year old. Before then, Sanchez was modesty personified as he paid tribute to his Liberty team-mates. “I didn’t really come into the race thinking about the overall win, so it’s really important for me,” said Sanchez. “But it’s equally important for the team because we worked really hard throughout the winter. Hopefully this will be our springboard for a successful season.” As for becoming the new Indurain, Sanchez added: “It would be a dream for me if I even had half of the capabilities of Indurain.” But for now he is set on helping the more experienced leaders of his team during their stage race campaigns this spring, although he wouldn’t look out of place going for victory on some of those races himself. “It’s great to win here, but later on I’ll be turning my attention back to the team leaders in the bigger stage races like Paris-Nice and hopefully the Tour de France. They’re the guys who are preparing themselves for those races, and I’ll be there to help them.” And what about the possibility of fulfilling his dream of riding the Tour de France? “I spoke to Manolo (Saiz) before I came out here to Australia. It’s a strong possibility.” Australian champion McEwen, meanwhile, gave his challengers a glimpse of why he is always so hard to beat in the early months of the season. Racing criteriums during the European winter months has given the 32-year-old Davitamon-Lotto sprinter the legs that Stuart O’Grady, Baden Cooke and Allan Davis, all of whom failed to win a stage, are currently working on. It was a plan which paid off, and it could turn out to be another perfect start to a season for the Belgium-based Queenslander who, after he won the national title in 2002, enjoyed his best season ever. “Hopefully I will be going even quicker in July,” said McEwen, who will be aiming for another green jersey for the points classification. “I’ve done a little bit more racing kilometres than anybody else here, and it shows. “Guys say you don’t want to be good in January because later down the track you’re going to take a dive. But if you can take the Aussie champion’s jersey and have it for 12 months, then it’s well, well worth going downhill a little bit at the end of March – and that’s when I take a week off anyway.” Stage 6, Adelaide criterium 1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 81km in 1.45.29 (46.07kph) 2 Paride Grillo (Ita) Panaria 3 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 4 Guillermo Bongiorno (Arg) Panaria 5 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Cofidis 6 Erki Putsep (Est) Ag2r 7 Baden Cooke (Aus) La Francaise des Jeux 8 Giosue Bonomi (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 9 Graeme Brown (Aus) Panaria 10 Sbastien Hinault (Fra) Crdit Agricole Final overall 1 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 16.45.44 2 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 0.33 3 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Cofidis 0.47 4 Johan van Summeren (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.48 5 Javier Ramirez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.50 6 David McPartland (Aus) United Water 0.53 7 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r 1.04 8 Paride Grillo (Ita) Panaria 1.10 9 Mark Renshaw (Aus) La Francaise des Jeux 1.18 10 Robert McLachlan (Aus) United Water