By Shane Stokes in Madrid
CSC rider Carlos Sastre has had the best season of his career, taking fourth in both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. Team directeur sportif Bjarne Riis told Cyclingnews today that he believes Sastre can progress even further, with the top step of the podium within reach.
"I think he can win a Grand Tour, yes," he said. "It has been a very good season for Carlos. You can see he is very stable [in a stage race], and that is what is important. He has many possibilities.
"We are happy with how the Vuelta went," Riis continued. "All the guys rode very well. It would have been nice to have been on the podium but apart from that, the team has been great and Carlos has been excellent. We had a strong team here, they performed well, were aggressive and were able to take good decisions in the race. That is very positive for us."
Sastre was one of the most popular riders in the Vuelta, and not only because he is Spanish. For journalists and fans alike he is one of the most approachable of those in the peloton, and this makes him a natural leader, with his teammates keen to help him achieve the highest result possible.
Today he and the others were riding for someone else. "The team were working for Stuart [O’Grady]," Sastre said after the finish. "We tried to help him for the sprint, it was nice to do.
"I am happy to finish the Vuelta, for sure. I have had a long season, a hard race, and it is always nice when you finish something like this. After this, I only have the world championships left, that is my last race of the year. Then I will take a nice rest."
Sastre will be just one of the team riding the World's. "I think we have thirteen or fourteen riders going there," said Riis. "All of them are in good condition and it will be interesting to see how they do."