Carlos Sastre lost more valuable time to his rivals as he continued his bid to retain his Tour de France crown on today’s 207 kilometre stage from Pontarlier to Verbier. On the lowers slopes of the climb up to Verbier, Sastre was unable to live with the brutal accelerations set first by Saxo Bank and then Alberto Contador.
However, the Spaniard set his own steady pace and successfully rejoined a lead group that contained Bradley Wiggins, Lance Armstrong and Cadel Evans, before putting in a brave attack with Fränk Schleck, Wiggins, Evans and Vincenzo Nibali.
"It was a hard day and it was really fast. It was more or less like I expected. I know this Tour de France has been difficult," Sastre said at the finish.
"I rode the best I could. I would have liked to have had the same explosiveness but I didn’t. I am more of a diesel and I like to go at my own steady pace. That’s what I did and I was able to come back. I was there in the front. It was a difficult stage after almost one week of flat stages and this kind of finish is good for me. But I recognise that some riders were stronger than me today."
To date Sastre has had a less than perfect Tour defence. He lost 48 seconds to Contador in the opening time trial in Monaco. This was compounded by a 1:37 deficit to the Spaniard in the team time trial. However, Sastre, who won the Tour last year with Saxo Bank-CSC, was quick to praise the work of his team. "I used all my teammates today, they were close to me until the last important moments. We are content, it’s been a successful Tour de France for us," he said.
Sastre has been relatively shy with the media during the race, even with the Spanish press at times, but he gave an insight into his possibly motives. "It’s been a really strange Tour. Everyone is talking about Contador and Armstrong and the Schleck brothers, as if they’re the only ones doing the race. You saw some other riders today making their race. I am happy with my condition, my team and with the results. I just go day-by-day, doing my race and doing what I think is good for me."