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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC)
Former Tour champ leads Geox-TMC charge in Spain
Carlos Sastre will begin his first race for new team Geox-TMC tomorrow as the Vuelta Ciclista a la Region de Murcia gets underway with a 178.7km stage from San Pedro del Pinatar to Alhama de Murcia.
Whilst Sastre hasn't had much contact with his teammates since a training camp in January and hasn't yet raced in 2011, he's hoping for a solid start to the year on a parcours that has a little something for everyone.
The opening day has three category three climbs over the 178.7km and will be a good test for the 2008 Tour de France champion before the second stage, a 183.2km journey from Estrella de Levante to Sierra Espuña where the experienced climber should be amongst the leaders. The final day is a 12.4km time trial that could sort out the general classification.
"There are three stages that will act as three important tests to see the results of these past two months of preparation and to know how things are going faced with the most important points of this season," said Sastre in a media release.
"As I said, there are three tests: a flat stage, a mountain stage and a time trial, in which I will be able to see how strong I am compared to the other riders and to get a feel for what kind of shape I'm in, which you can only really do when competing," he added.
"I think the first race is important, because up until this point, all you've been doing is training. After the team's training meet in Tarragona in early January, I haven't had any other point of contact with the other riders and it's important to be able to do this in a relatively calm race, but in a race that's really important to me, such as the Vuelta a Murcia," Sastre explained.
Geox-TMC has endured a tough start to the season after it was denied a ProTeam licence and wasn't invited to this year's Tour de France. The team's problems have been well-documented but Sastre is remaining focused on the events the squad will be contesting, rather than those it isn't.
"I'm starting out feeling calm and relaxed, with a really good team that has been doing really well in the races that it's been competing in. I think this team will have the chance to get some good results in this race", he said.