The Cervélo team may have lost an option for the General Classification with Xavier Tondo having an off-day yesterday on the Monte Zoncolan, but the outfit is still upbeat about Carlos Sastre's possibilities now that the Giro d'Italia has reached its final week.
Tondo, who enjoyed a promising third position on GC on Sunday morning, could not keep up with the best on the hard mountain stage that saw Ivan Basso return to former glory - instead, he finished in 100th place, 25'25" off the stage winner.
"Tondo didn't feel well from the start of the stage," commented Cervélo sports director Alex Sans Vega. "It's an accumulation of the fatigue. It's his first grand tour that he's going to finish..."
To the team's delight, however, 2008 Tour de France winner Sastre lived up to his expectations on the Giro's queen stage, finishing sixth behind Basso. On GC, the Spaniard is fourth, right behind the Liquigas leader, with other contenders such as Alexandre Vinokourov and Cadel Evans in fifth and sixth place.
Sans Vega followed Sastre's progress on the final Monte Zoncolan climb on Sunday with satisfaction. "Liquigas did huge work today, and Basso was very strong," he said. "At first, Carlos couldn't go at their rhythm. Then he recovered and went pretty well on the second half of the climb. I keep saying the same thing, today it was Tondo, yesterday it was Garzelli, so something to can happen to anybody at any time in this Giro. Until Saturday, the Giro will be wide open."
With further die-hard tests such as the time trial up the Plan de Corones coming up on Tuesday, as well as a more than challenging final week-end, the Cervélo TestTeam is placing its bets on the in-form and well-experienced Sastre. "We lost the option with Tondo, so now we will help Carlos to the maximum," Sans Vega continued. "The race is very exciting right now. For the fans, it will be a race that is spectacular until the final day in Verona. Everything is still possible in this Giro."
Teammate Marcel Wyss was also hopefull that the Spaniard will be a top competitor for the race's big finale. "I will help Carlos in the final week," he said. "Carlos was good [on the Monte Zoncolan - ed.]. He has always said from the first day, this Giro is not decided until the final stage. Everyone knows that Carlos will be good in the last week."
With the first two weeks of the race being held under strenuous circumstances, the team is relieved to be able to recover on today's rest day in Friuli. "The rest day doesn't come at a better moment, because the first rest day came after three stages," Sans Vega added. "Every day it's been raining, cold, stages longer than 200 kilometres, the riders now are very tired. And we are the same hotel for three nights, so we will take advantage of it, recover, train quietly, and be ready for the final week."