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Widely expected to retire, former Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez has instead inked a deal to renew with the BMC Racing Team and will be part of the setup during the 2015 season.
Sanchez, who sprinted to victory in the 2008 Olympic road race in Beijing, moved to the team prior to the 2014 season after his previous Euskaltel Euskadi team folded. He had a solid year and it was reported by Spanish media that he had been offered a new deal, but the team told CyclingTips in November that he would not be part of the setup in 2015.
Indications were that Sanchez was not satisfied with the offer he had been given. In December he told El Comercio that he had an offer from an undisclosed team but was weighing up whether or not he wanted to keep going. Subsequent statements appeared to indicate he would likely retire.
This has now changed, however, with the BMC Racing Team President and General Manager Jim Ochowicz announcing that he will indeed continue.
“We are pleased to extend our relationship with Samuel for the 2015 season,” he stated. “He was a great contributor to our success in 2014 and we expect to see the same again this year.
“His program will focus on the grand tours and WorldTour races where his strong experience and multitude of skills will be a big benefit to the team.”
Sanchez is the second most experienced of the riders after Cadel Evans, but the Australian will retire at the end of this month.
The 36 year old said that he is looking forward to getting started, though he admitted that he has to do more work to reach race fitness.
“For me, the BMC Racing Team is my team,” he said. “I know the riders. I know the team. And I don’t like to change much. I prefer one team.
“As for my fitness, I may not be ready to race tomorrow, but I did a good job at home to stay active. I was riding my mountain bike and doing cyclocross. My level is not good, but it is not bad, either.”
The team’s sporting manager Allan Peiper welcomed the news, saying that everyone on the team was pleased that he is returning.
“From a sporting perspective, he gives us that much more depth. We saw last year what a game-changer he can be,” he said. “This year we expect him to contribute in pretty much the same way, but maybe with a little more focus on the support and development of the big influx of young talent we have brought into the team.”
Sanchez’s performances in 2014 included sixth in the Vuelta a España plus fifth in Il Lombardia. He also acted as super-domestique to a number of other riders, helping Philippe Gilbert to win the Amstel Gold Race and also assisting Evans in the Giro d’Italia.
He ended out the season by helping Gilbert take the Tour of Beijing.
Sanchez will likely be given some personal opportunity this season, but will also be required to assist others once again. Current Santos Tour Down Under race leader Rohan Dennis is one who could benefit from his experience.