By Hedwig Kröner in Saint-Etienne
Finally, the dream of the yellow jersey lasted only three days for Team CSC-Saxo Bank's Fränk Schleck. The Luxemburger took the overall lead one day before the rest day in Italy, and sacrificed himself to pass on the precious garment to team-mate Carlos Sastre two stages later on L'Alpe d'Huez.
Although he did have a disappointed look on his face at the podium ceremony honouring his team-mate atop the famous ski station, Schleck was all positive about his team's feat at this Tour de France, and insisted he wasn't sad to lose the jersey. "I don't think I lost the jersey - I gave it to Carlos, which is nice," he said. "We knew that if we want to win the Tour de France, there was only one way: by attacking. And we had two leaders, there was me and there was Carlos. We all agreed on Carlos attacking first, and if we would have caught him back, I would have attacked, and so on. So the chances were 50/50."
The elder of the Schleck brothers was relegated to second on general classification, 1'24 behind Sastre, with the Spaniard's main rival Cadel Evans fourth at 1'34. With the 53 kilometre-time trial coming up on Saturday, Schleck was realistic about his team's chances for the overall win. "I don't know if we're going to win it," he added. "It'll be hard. But I know one thing: this Tour de France has been full of emotions. CSC showed a great race. We tried everything, and if we still don't win it, that's okay."
Even his own second placing is far from being set in stone. Still, the Luxemburger did not fail to emphasize his team's and his own success at the 2008 Tour. "I hope I can still make it to the podium in Paris. It'll be hard, too. But I'll try - that's what we're here for. In any case, I'm satisfied with my whole Tour de France. I gave everything, did a great race together with my brother Andy, and people will talk about us for quite a while..."
Schleck insisted he had "no regrets. If you can't reproach yourself anything, if you gave everything, then you can only be satisfied with yourself. That's how our team sees it."
Asked if he would come back one day to win the Tour, Schleck said: "I'll be back, but I'm afraid the Tour will then be won by my brother. But that's okay with me, I'm very proud of him." Andy Schleck, the probable winner of the white jersey of best young rider, is indeed rated as the next big Tour de France victory contender. The team hierarchy for the 2009 Tour, whether Sastre wins this year's race or not, is yet to be determined.