An interview with Carlos Sastre, February 7, 2005
Entering his eighth season as a professional, Carlos Sastre Candil, whose initials "CSC" are the same as his team name, is maturing as a rider. With already one Tour de France stage win to his credit and several top 10 GC finishes, Sastre will be a valuable ally for Ivan Basso this July, as Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez Macias reports.
Winning one stage in the Tour de France is something that many riders desire, but very few are able to achieve. In the second exclusive group there is Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) after his victory in the 13 stage (Toulouse-Domaines) of the 2003 Tour. He prevailed that time in the Pyrenees over big stars like Jan Ullrich, Haimar Zubeldia and Lance Armstrong, who were second, third and forth in Domaines. Besides that, he was among the top ten riders in the last few Vueltas a España.
Sastre's father Victor was very influential in Sastre's sporting career. He taught Carlos the main values for succeeding in cycling. The Spanish rider seems to know how to progress, as his own website (www.carlossastre.com) opens with the words, "effort, dedication and professional accomplishment."
"We are going to do the best we can from the first race." - Carlos Sastre CSC's strategy for this season.
When Cyclingnews caught up with Carlos Sastre, he was in Florence, in the Toscana region training with CSC. By coincidence his initials are the same as his team name: Carlos Sastre Candil. Apart from that, he feels very comfortable in the Danish squad. Together with Ivan Basso they will fight on the front line of the three Grand Tours.
Cyclingnews: How did you start the year?
Carlos Sastre: So far the whole team is here in our training camp in Italy for ten days more or less. My goals are further on in the year and what I want to do now is a good training base to have a good peak later in the Belgian classics: Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Tour of Romandy. And then I will rest a little bit and prepare for the Tour de France, which is my greatest goal.
CN: So the pre season is going well so far?
CS: Everything is going fine, without a problem so far, calm. We are doing good training.
CN: Do you train in a mountainous region? How is that part of Italy?
CS: There is a little bit of everything. It has flat parts, it has mountains. The mountain training we do is to ride climbs six or seven kilometres long. We do specific training exercises in order to take strength, quickness, to go well against the clock, a little bit of everything.
CN: How were your holidays?
CS: Well, they go away too fast. It is not that we have much time, we had practically 20 days on October and then I started working in my case. I began on November 1 going to the gym, the swimming pool, riding off-road. I also like to ride on mountain bikes. I like to do things related to sport, but I like to change a little bit from the road bicycle to relax myself, especially to relax my mind.
CN: Did you spend the winter holidays with your family in Avila?
CS: Yes, I did. I have been with my family.
CN: Was the stage you won in the 2003 Tour de France your greatest achievement?
CS: Yes, up to now. So far it was the most important thing I achieved.
CN: Although you won the mountain classification in the 2000 Vuelta a España...
CS: The mountain [first place] in the Vuelta a España was very important, but a victory in the Tour de France is, I think, the dream of many cyclists. Your name and your team's name are known all over the world when you get something in the Tour. It's the most gratifying thing for all of us, it's the most important thing.
CN: You have stayed in Riis's CSC Team for many years. How do you feel there?
CS: Up to today I feel very well. I came here because I needed freedom to see if I could grow inside this sport. And Bjarne [Riis] gave me freedom, he helped me a lot. I feel so very good in this team and I always have had freedom.
I am a rider who likes to take into account the team very much. If I have the chance to do something for myself, I do it. But if I see that there's a mate who has better chances than me, then I try to help him.
CN: Which language do you speak with Riis? English, Spanish?
CS: He doesn't speak Spanish, we speak in English or in Italian a little bit. My Italian is not very good, but...we understand each other. We always speak with each other in English.
CN: How is Riis as director?
CS: He is a director who has pretty clear ideas. Apart from having pretty clear ideas, he is person who likes to listen and before making any decision he asks for you opinion. He is a person who likes to talk in general.
CN: It seems Team CSC will try to win everything with Ivan Basso in the front row...
CS: I think this year the team has become very much stronger with the new riders. It's a pretty homogenous team with the new coming of many riders. I think it's a very strong team. The team is doing things well, people are very excited. We are going to do the best we can from the first race. There are some precise goals like the big races, Giro, Tour and Vuelta. But the Tour is the most important competition for any team because of the great popularity it has. I think the team will challenge for the top and we are working to fight for that.
CN: You will be your team's leader in the Vuelta a España?
CS: In the Vuelta and in the Tour, along with Ivan Basso, we were both on the road as leaders. And this year we will do the same, he will maybe be more in the front, but we, the two, will be together. Last year we were together, I had bad luck with the crash, but now the decisions are made by the two of us and we talk to each other very much. And every time we have a meeting with Bjarne, we always have them with three of us together. In the Giro, Ivan will go as the leader, in the Tour we both go, and in the Vuelta I will.
CN: Do you think you will be able to fight for the podium in the next Vuelta?
CS: I don't know. My goal is to reach races in my best physical and mental condition. And then when I am in the race if I have an opportunity I take it at one hundred percent. My main goal is to do races in good condition. Then, the rest is the race that decides.
CN: Your strongest point is the mountain stages. Are you doing something in order to improve other parts of your way of riding like the time trials?
CS: During the last Vuelta a España I was third in the last time trial and ninth in the first one. I am not a time trial specialist but I don't go badly against the clock. My Tour de France was tough because I had a very bad fall during the sixth stage. I guess I was ninth in the mountain time trial and in the other time trial I was seventeenth. So, I don't go badly. Neither can I have such a potential like [Lance] Armstrong or [Jan] Ullrich's on these kind of stages, but if I'm in good shape and motivated I used to do it well.
CN: Do you think of a certain goal for 2005?
CS: My goal is to reach the Tour de France in good condition, first, and then the Vuelta a España.
CN: Is it an extra motivation the fact that the Road World Championships will be held in Madrid? Would you like to wear your country's jersey in Madrid?
CS: Yes, of course. I think that every rider would like to defend his country's colours. Besides that, it is an extra motivation, it's a nice thing and of course I would like to race.
CN: What does your father mean in your sporting career?
CS: He has been a person who has showed me a very serious work ethic and a person who has taught me that if I want to achieve something in this life, I have to do it with sacrifice.
CN: If you hadn't had success in cycling, what would you have done? Do you have any idea?
CS: I don't know, I would have done anything. I'm not a person who conforms with less. I am an ambitious person, in the good sense of the word, because I don't conform with what I have. I like to progress and I like to get more things.
CN: Doping is unfortunately very related with cycling. What solution could you think of for this problem as you are a professional rider who is in the elite cycling?
CS: Well...I think there are few solutions. Because if we see, many people think of doping when they think of cycling and that is a very big mistake. If we look at society, indirectly whether is sport or not, there are people who take drugs, people who drink alcohol all day long, people who smoke every day and things like these. Why do they think this is not bad and doping is actually bad? I think it is a society problem, a problem of our culture, not a sporting problem. And that the press now has an obsession with doping. It [the press] knows it sells newspapers with controversies of that kind and it is a serious problem [doping] in this world.
Solutions? If you are an honest person, you are always going to be honest in everything that you do. If you are not an honest person, you won't be in sport or in society. So, it depends on every person and on every way of thinking of every person. So, it is very tough to fight against things that are right there.