Former Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre is one of the favourites for this month’s Giro d’Italia, with the 35-year-old making his intentions clear after arriving in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. While it’s the Spaniard’s fifth Giro it will be only the second time Sastre has captained a squad, following his fourth place last year which became a third after Danilo Di Luca’s positive doping test.
“I almost came third,” said Sastre with a hint of irony. With last year’s winner Denis Menchov not defending his title in order to focus exclusively on the Tour de France and Franco Pellizotti’s late sidelining for anti-doping reasons, Sastre is an obvious candidate for the maglia rosa.
“It’s a huge opportunity to win the Giro this year,” the Cervélo TestTeam rider said at a press conference in Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium. “But there are still many important riders on the start line with Cadel Evans, Alexandre Vinokourov, Bradley Wiggins and Ivan Basso. If I happen to win the race it’ll be great.”
Sastre decided last November to focus on the Giro d’Italia as his first goal for 2010. “With two stage wins, I kept very good memories of this race last year,” he said. “After a hard Tour de France, I wanted to re-start the computer and I’ve thought the Giro would be the best way to do so. I’ve also had a difficult off-season. The winter has been bad, but I have followed my plan with the idea to arrive here with good form.”
Sastre’s limited racing thus far this season, just eight days of competition, was deliberate. Sastre completed seven days at the Tour of Catalunya, where he helped Xavier Tondo win a stage on his way to second overall, followed by Liège-Bastogne-Liège where he was caught in a crash before being dropped with 30km remaining.
“I feel fresh and strong again. The last week of the Giro is really hard,” he said. “There aren’t many kilometres of time trial, which is good for me.
“A lot of things help for my motivation,” he added. “We have a new sponsor [Tata Consultancy Services] and new opportunities for showing the depth of the team. But I’m not saying we won’t have any more chances of winning something big later in the season.”
Alberto Contador’s presence at the Tour de France could be seen as a motivator behind Sastre’s focus on the Giro, however the Spaniard refuses to admit he can’t win the French event again.