Carlos Sastre, the winner of the Tour de France, will start the Giro d’Italia on Saturday ready to secure a place on the only podium of the three grand tours that he has not yet reached. At 34 years old, he is "Mr Top Ten", with twelve top-ten positions including the Tour and the Vuelta.
This is his fourth appearance in the pink race and the first time as team leader, in which he aims to fight it out amongst rivals such as Armstrong, Leipheimer, Basso, Cunego, Menchov and Di Luca.
"There are several reasons that have made me decide to compete in this race. The Giro is the only podium that I need to complete the three great tours. I have always ridden it whilst working for other riders and this year I wanted to ride it for myself. Another reason is that this year marks the centenary of the race and Cerv?lo is keen to be involved in this event. The route has also influenced my choice, with six or seven mountain finishes and a time trial that is not so hard as to be only suited to pure time trial riders" explained Sastre after setting off towards Venice, where the race will be officially opened.
"I’m going to the Giro to fight for the top spot. I think I’ve prepared thoroughly to compete in the best physical conditions. That?s why all I’m thinking about now is the Giro. Once I have finished it, and independently of how it goes, I will start planning the Tour. That is what I have done in previous years, where I’ve gone from the Tour to the Vuelta. And whether better or worse, I think I’ve always been at a good level – and last year I reached both podiums"he confirmed.
Up until arriving in Italy, the Spanish cyclist has stuck to his initial planning, with the only exception being his riding in the Amstel Gold Race instead of the Fl?che Wallonne, as it clashed with him picking up a sporting merit medal and the Castilla y Le?n award. "Once I got over the rocky start at the Tour of California, I’ve been able to progress gradually with each race and follow the training that I had planned. I’m going to start this race feeling calm and knowing that I?ve got lots of preparation behind me" said Sastre.
The Cerv?lo leader has "a good memory" of the three Giros he raced. "I first competed in this race in 1999, with the ONCE team, supporting Jalabert. It was my first big race and Laurent, who got to don the "pink-maglia", had a chance of winning and finally came in fourth in the general classifications. The second time was in 2002 and then riding for CSC, I helped Tyler Hamilton to get to the second step on the podium. The last time was in 2006, when I collaborated towards Iv?n Basso’s win" he said.
For Sastre, "the Giro is above all a survival race which is ridden in a completely different way to the others. It always include a lot of shifts, mixing marathon-style, 250 kilometre stages with fast, spectacular stages that don’t even make the 100 kilometre mark. And then there’s also the particular riding style of the Italians. It usually starts off quickly, until a breakaway takes place that gets a good advantage over the rest, and the pack ride at a relaxed pace and then the last two hours of the stage are really dramatic, with ambushes in nearly all the finals."
"The Italian riders are really aggressive and will go for it at any moment, always trying to seek out an opportunity, so you have to be on your guard at all times, watching their moves. Another thing that sets this race apart from the rest is the percentage of mountain passes, which are also really tough" he explained.
In terms of this year’s route, Sastre seemed satisfied with what the organisers have cooked up. "I like the route, both because of the mountain finishes and the way that the time trial has been devised. Given how it is structured, I think it’s really important to get there in excellent physical condition. In the first week, we will already have two stages in the Dolomites, and even though they aren’t excessively hard, you need to be in good form so as not to lose important seconds that can catch up with you at the end. I won’t say that I’ll arrive feeling a hundred percent, but something close anyway" he said.
An important aspect that Sastre mentioned was also the need to "recover as much as possible during the race, in the stages that allow you to do so, and keeping the final stages in mind, especially the stage at Vesuvius. I think that it will be after the time trial, which I have to say is different to any of the ones we’ve ridden in the other big stage races, when we will start to see how the race is panning out" he confirmed.
website: Carlos Sastre
website: Giro d’Italia