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"I want to thank those who have made it possible to be here today, mainly Caja Rural and RGA Seguros. It is very important to feel like a rider and put a race number on my back again. I have a lot of motivation to start the year and lo...




30.12.2013 @ 14:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Luis Leon Sanchez has finally found a new team for the coming season after being presented as a new Caja Rural-RGA rider at a press conference today. After having had limited racing in 2013, the Spaniard is eager to get back into competition and will target the Volta a Catalunya, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and the Vuelta a Espana in his first season with the Spanish squad.


After several months of uncertainty, Luis Leon Sanchez was today presented as a new Caja Rural-RGA rider at a press conference in Pamplona. The signing was reported by Biciciclismo on December 23 and now it is official that one of Spain's most successful riders will take a step down to pro continental level in 2014


For the past three years, Sanchez has been riding for the Belkin team and its predecessor Rabobank but his links to several doping investigations saw the Dutch team buy him out of his contract at the end of the 2013 season. In the early part of the season, he was put on inactive status by Belkin when new links to Operacion Puerto were published in the media but after taking the case to the UCI, Sanchez was allowed to return to competition. However, his team decided to end their association with the former Paris-Nice winner at the end of the season.


Since then Sanchez has been looking for a new team and in early November Ciclo21 reported that the Spaniard was very close to signing a deal with Caja Rural. The team confirmed its interest but said that Sanchez had to reduce his wage demands if a deal was to be reached.


Instead, it was later reported that the team had finalized its roster as Caja Rural decided not to increase its financial commitment but the team actually never confirmed the story. Apparently, the parties remained in contact and a few weeks later Sanchez' agent Angel Buenache told Biciciclismo that there were a number of offers on the table and that he would make a decision in the near future.


Biciciclismo reported that team officials continued their search for additional fund from private and technical sponsors. Finally, they found the needed money to add Sanchez to the roster.


"I want to thank those who have made it possible to be here today, mainly Caja Rural and RGA Seguros," Sanchez said at the press conference according to Biciciclismo. "It is very important to feel like a rider and put a race number on my back again. I have a lot of motivation to start the year and look forward to the first race."


His new team may represent a step down from the WorldTour level but Sanchez will not reduce his ambitions for the coming year.


"If my health and crashes allow it, I will hopefully be able to win," he said. "I'm happy to represent this team, that's the first, and for me it will be a luxury. I don't take anything for granted and do not take it as a quiet year. Since I turned professional I have always tried to do my best and hopefully the results will arrive.


"[The move] was a fast one because the team has shown me great trust," he added. "From the beginning, they have had no doubt and have all the facilities. First and foremost, it happened at the right time. Yes, it was a strange feeling to be at the end of the year and to don't know where I was going to ride."


Due to his provisional suspension by Belkin, Sanchez had limited racing in 2013 and he is now eager to get a full season under his belt. He has asked to start his season as early as January 13 when the Tropical Amissa Bongo kicks off in Gabon.


"When you're a professional and you have just 30 days of competition in a year, you feel like anything but a cyclist," he said. "We have had rough times. It was a somewhat atypical winter but I could not find a team that trusted me. Those responsible for Caja Rural-RGA have shown me their confidence and that is what any rider needs to feel like a cyclist. The first thing is to trust yourself and enjoy the sport.


"It is a situation that was created by external circumstances," he added. "There are people that have hurt me and because of that, some teams have had doubts. It is extra motivation for me that Caja Rural trusts me. I always like to start the year in a good way as it is easy to train in Murcia and get into a good condition. I asked to go to Gabon as I like to compete and I will indeed do the race. I feel like a cyclist from the beginning and hope to have a good start with the team."


Sanchez has already finalized the first part of his schedule. After riding in Gabon, he will do the Mallorca Challenge, the Vuelta a Andalusia, Vuelta a Murcia and Clasica Almeria. The team is hopeful of receiving a wildcard invitation for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo which would provide Sanchez with the perfect warm-up for one of his season goals, the Volta a Catalunya in March. It is followed by another major Spanish race, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. The second part of the season will be focused on the Clasica San Sebastian, Vuelta a Burgos and the Vuelta a Espana.


 "It's a calendar that I like, with races like Catalonia and the Basque Country," Sanchez said. "I'm not going to focus on a single race but I am going to take it step by step. Now I will try to do well in Gabon."


The signing will be a great boost to Caja Rural. The Spanish team is trying to internationalize its race schedule and has applied for a wildcard for the Giro d'Italia. The addition of Sanchez would significantly enhance the chances of a positive reply.


"It is an important qualitative step forward and it is a luxury to have a winner like Luis Leon," manager Juanma Hernandez said. "Winners like him would usually ride in the WorldTour where they are guaranteed participation in the major races. He is a reinforcement in races like Catalunya and the Basque Country and in the time trials."


Sanchez, Davide Vigano, Angel Madrazo and Pello Bilbao all join Caja Rural from the WorldTour while Heiner Parra and Luis Mas come from the continental ranks. Fernando Grijalva and Antonio Molina both turn professional with the Spanish squad.



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