Confident of wildcard place for Grand Tours
By Shane Stokes in Faro, Portugal
Carlos Sastre has been a Grand Tour contender for a long time, but 2009 will be the first time in his career that he will be the clear leader of a team. He's been number one for races such as the Vuelta a España – and, to an extent, the Tour de France in 2006, after Ivan Basso was excluded from the race – but this season sees him begin as both the Tour champion and also in a position of much greater responsibility.
The Cervélo Test Team is a completely new setup and Sastre has influence on the decisions made. At the team training camp in Portugal he's achieving this in a number of ways; speaking with the team management and backers to give his input, talking to other riders to provide encouragement to the younger competitors and, also, helping to lighten the mood with his easygoing nature.
Thor Hushovd is also a highly experienced member of the men's team and Sastre says that both he and the former Tour green jersey winner have a big role to play.
"Thor and I are the columns of this team. Of course, I feel really happy with the team. We have a really nice atmosphere. We have a lot of work to do, but at the moment, the most important part is to make a good base, we can build the team later. So far, we are having a really nice training camp here in Portugal."
The friendly Spaniard is building form after what he said were big changes to his life since the Tour de France win in July. He states that his personal life is as before, but that almost everything else has changed. He is focused, though, and has clear targets for the season ahead.
"My goals are to be ready for the Giro [d'Italia], to be ready for the Tour and to be ready for the Worlds."
Sastre is confident that the Professional Continental team, or second division, will get a wildcard be in the biggest races. "We have a place in the Tour, we have a place in the Giro, we have a place in the Vuelta," he said.
"We have got a lot of respect for the big organisations. We have an opportunity to do the best races in the world. Honestly, with this project we have a lot of open doors and it is because of respect. They respect the project, they respect myself."
More photos from the Cervélo Test Team training camp.