After his fifth-place in last year's Tour de France, Basque team Euskaltel Euskadi believe their rider Samuel Sanchez can reach the podium this time around.
The 34-year-old is an accomplished climber and a rapid descender, which ought to serve him well in the 2012 Tour's latter stages, especially considering his mountain stage win in the 2011 Tour to take the polka dot jersey.
Sanchez has recently stated: “I would like to win another stage at the Tour without forgetting about the podium.”
His 2011 Tour started disastrously with a collection of accidents, which saw him fall down the standings, but a late surge left him in a respectable fifth-place.
And after an impressive 2010 Tour - in which, but for a crash in the Pyrenees and an under-par time trial performance, he would have beaten Denis Menchov to third place - Sanchez is primed for another run at the podium.
It would be well earned too, after a career in which the Spaniard has been so often the nearly-man.
A career record of 33 second-place finishes tells its own story, though such a statistic obscures some impressive achievements since Sanchez turned pro in 2000.
Five career stage wins in the Vuelta, plus another seven in the Tour of the Basque Country, are not to be sniffed at. Nor was second place in the 2009 Vuelta, where he beat everyone bar his fellow countryman Alejandro Valverde.
But Sanchez's biggest career win to date was a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics Road Race back in 2008, beating a strong field that included the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans.
Unusually, despite riding for Euskaltel Euskadi for his entire career, Sanchez was born not in the Basque Country, nor Navarre, but in Asturias in the city of Oviedo, making him the only non-Basque in the team.
The mountain-specialist only has one year left on his current contract, and has give little indication of whether he will renew or not.
Many cycling observers have criticised him for riding without tactical nous, instead wasting valuable energy through impulsiveness in the saddle.
But that is a rather harsh judgement on a man who, at 34, is one of the most experienced Grand Tour riders in the business.
And with Sanchez himself proclaiming that the 2012 edition is one of the most important Tours for many years, with 10 or 15 riders in the running for the maillot jaune, the Spaniard has the potential to surprise in the general classification.
This year has treated the Asturian well, with him already claiming the Tour of the Basque Country title, and a second-place finish in the Volta a Catalunya.
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