Spanish cycling is in crisis after the consequences of ?Operacion Puerto? but celebrated a double success at the Zuri Metzgete race in Switzerland on Sunday as Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) won the rain-soaked race and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) sealed overall victory in the ProTour.
Sanchez combined his skills learnt riding motorbikes as a child and his liking for racing in the rain to win the biggest classic of his six-year career.
The 28 year-old from Oviedo broke clear from a five-rider lead group on the final rain-soaked climb, 12km from the end of the 233km race, and then used his impressive bike handling skills on the descent and determination on the flat to stay clear to the finish.
New world time trial champion and local hero Fabian Cancellara gave his all in the chase along the lakeside but Sanchez was unbeatable and had time to celebrate his first big win.
Australia?s Stuart O?Grady (CSC) and Italy?s Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) finished second and third, 30 seconds behind Sanchez. Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) was fourth and Cancellara was fifth at 36 seconds.
Paolo Bettini of Italy showed off his new world champion?s rainbow jersey in the Swiss race but retired 33km from the end of the race.
Sanchez won a stage in this year?s Tour of Spain in September and was fourth in the recent world championships but this was the first big one-day victory of his six-year career. It was also the first big one-day victory for his small Euskaltel team since their creation in 1994.
Sanchez pointed to the sky as he crossed the line and was in tears as he remembered his mother and grandmother.
?This is my first big win and so it was an emotional moment. This win is for them,? he said.
?I?m from the north of Spain and so I always ride well in the rain and cold. I?ve always liked this race and always finished in the front group. I?m very happy because now I?ve shown that I?m a classics rider and can win the big one-day races.?
VALVERDE SEALS PROTOUR VICTORY
Thanks to his win Sanchez climbed to second overall in the UCI ProTour standings but could not stop Valverde from mathematically sealing victory in the season-long competition with two races still to be held.
Valverde did not ride in Zurich but has amassed 285 points during the season thanks to his successful spring and Vuelta. Sanchez is now second with 173 points and Australia?s Cadel Evans (Davitamon) is third with 162 points but with a total of only 90 points available in Paris-Tours on October 8 and the Tour of Lombardy on October 14, Valverde can celebrate his ProTour success two weeks early.