After his second place in last year's Vuelta and fourth (third if Floyd Landis is disqualified) in the Tour de France, Carlos Sastre heads to this year's Tour of Spain as one of the biggest favourites. He was initially unsure about his participation due to the fact that he also rode the Giro d'Italia this year but any fears that he would be feeling flat were removed after he had a strong performance in the Clasica San Sebastián two weeks ago.
"My form is not bad," a relaxed Sastre told Cyclingnews at the teams presentation in Málaga's Plaza de la Constitución. "I feel recovered after the Tour the France and the season in general. This one has been hard for me but at this point in time I feel okay and that is what is important for making the decision [to take part in the Vuelta]."
Sastre confirmed his participation after the San Sebastián race, the CSC rider having gone clear in a dangerous break containing Denis Menchov and Iban Mayo on the final run in to the finish. Although they were caught before the end, it gave him the reassurance he needed to know that he could challenge in the Vuelta.
"I was a little surprised as to how good I felt there," he said. "Before San Sebastian I didn't train too hard but I felt good there. The last part was really tough because there was a headwind and because of that, we didn't stay away to the finish line. But we tried and it was a really positive experience.
"Since then, I spent a week and a half at home, training and spending time with my family. Then last Wednesday I went and saw the ninth stage of this race, the one to Alto de la Cobertoria in Asturias...it was really, really hard."
As was the case when asked about the Vuelta course on the day of the Clasica San Sebastián, Sastre is probably best described as accepting rather than enthusiastic. "It is the course that we have to do. It is not bad, I don't know if it is the best but we will know more about that at the end of the race. We have enough time in the time trials and the mountain stages to gain and lose everything."
When asked about his rivals, he is reluctant to name names. "At the moment, 180 riders will start tomorrow [189 – ed.] and at this point, all of them are dangerous. I have respect for all of them. We have some strong riders here. We will know more about the contenders in the next few days."