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Carlos Sastre and Federico Bahamontes
Beating Astana an 'intimidating' task
Defending Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre believes taking another title in this year's race is possibly out of his grasp given the ominous form of the Astana team and in particular its dual general classification spearhead of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.
Spanish news agency EFE reports that Sastre spoke 'realistically' about his chances on the first rest day, saying he's not aiming specifically for a second victory in the race. "I think winning the Tour will be complicated for many reasons. One team has absolute control and that takes the show out of the race," said Sastre.
The Cervélo TestTeam rider sits in 16th place overall, 2:52 behind race leader Rinaldo Nocentini. After Sunday's stage to Tarbes the Spaniard admitted that the third week of the Tour would be his time to attempt any moves on the general classification, although with Astana's showing during the first week he knows it may be unlikely that he's successful.
"If you see four riders from the same team amongst the top 10, it's intimidating and kills the competition. It is not a criticism, it's reality. And if I reach the podium, it wouldn't be of much value to me; I'm indifferent and I'm not putting my hopes on that," he explained.
He was quick to point out that, "I'm not resigned either. I have already won the Tour. For many people, it was sheer chance. I focus on my own and my team's race. It's difficult to fight for the yellow and green jersey, but the team will fight for it. We are doing well: we've won a stage and are giving across a good image. I'm not resigned but I'm being realistic," he explained.
A relaxed Sastre continued by speaking candidly about the perceived prestige of his win last year. It was a popular victory that according to the Spaniard seems to have gone unremembered by the race organiser, ASO, which he feels has left his recent legacy behind in the hype of this year's edition.
Sastre's image wasn't included in the photos within the Tour's road book and he wasn't allowed to wear the yellow jersey - as is his wont as defending champion - in the opening time trial in Monaco. "You have to prioritise and be realistic. I'm having a good season and my team is happy. I'm excited about the Tour because it's the best race but I want to enjoy it more than ever," he said.
"If they keep me in the background, I'm not worried, I keep on receiving supportive messages and that is more gratifying than a second victory in the Tour, which I can't see happening now," he added.
"I'm happy to have been the starting point for a team [Cervélo TestTeam], to have won last year and to have a good relationship with my team mates," he said. "They didn't insist on me winning, just to reach the race in good form."