Judging by his calm and collected appearance after winning the Vuelta al País Vasco earlier today, Samuel Sánchez looked to be more relieved than ecstatic about finally taking home 'his race'. Speaking to reporters after the podium ceremony, Samu sounded like a man who'd just fulfilled his one and only goal in his life.
"I've just turned 34, I've just won a race that's always eluded me, I've been third overall, I've won stages, I've lead the race... Right now I'm at peace with both myself and the fans", Samu said philosophically.
See how it all unfolded here.
The Euskaltel leader was touted by many observers as the main favourite prior to the race - but then again it's not like that hadn't been the case in earlier editions of the race. So why did he succeed this time around?
"I'd say I'm probably in better shape than I've been before. In addition, I didn't suffer a jour sans and was therefore able to finish it off.
"As a team we were outstanding. We're a small team fighting it out with 20-million euro budget teams, but we showed we had the necessary perseverance and mentality, and we worked well. My team-mates have worked for me since day one, and they brought me into a position to win this race."
Click this link to view Iñaki Azanza's high-end pics of the entire race.
Speaking of the time trial course, which looked more like a hill-climb competition watching from the sofa anyway, Samu admitted the slippery and sinuous roads made for dangerous riding - but added succinctly that every bike has breaks if needs be.
"The course was dangerous, but it was equal for everyone", he told El Correo. "We're all free to take the risks we want to take, and every bike out there had breaks. I really liked the course and therefore took the risks".
Joaquím Rodríguez, who lead Samu by nine seconds going into the stage, was not too keen to risk life and limb for the win. He wasn't displeased with finishing second though, saying he came across a "really impressive" Samuel Sánchez.
"I didn't go full gas on the descents - the roads were slippery and it wasn't worth the risk. I felt good though, but unfortunately Samu was really impressive. He knows the roads well, is a better time trialist than me and did a great race."
What with four wins and the biggest prize of them all, the home race, in the bag, the 2012 season can already be classified as a success for the orange team. Samu isn't done just yet though. Taking out the País Vasco has long been on his 'to do'-list, but the affable 34-year-old says he's still got dreams to fulfill before retiring.
"Little by little my dreams from when I was a child are coming true: I've been on the podium in the Tour as the mountains classification winner, I've been third in that race (not in the way I hoped though), I've won Olympic gold and now this. The only thing I'm missing is a medal at the world championships".
His rivals are herby warned.