Spaniard Carlos Sastre, winner of the 2008 Tour de France, expects a strong challenge in his home Grand Tour – the Vuelta a España – starting this weekend. The 33 year-old CSC-Saxo Bank rider will have strong support, but tips compatriot Alberto Contador as the overall favourite.
"I might automatically be among the favourites because I won the Tour, but some of the other guys and teams will also have to step up and claim responsibility in this race – especially Alberto Contador, who's been preparing himself specifically for the Vuelta. I'm confident that we as a team will be able to put our mark on this race," said Sastre.
Sastre won the Tour de France over Cadel Evans but since then, he has raced in Beijing in support of Alejandro Valverde and eventual gold medallist, Samuel Sánchez. The Vuelta will be his second Grand Tour of the season.
"I'm very happy with the route this year – it'll be a great Vuelta. There are some tough mountain stages and a few tough ones in between as well, so it should be interesting. I think the stages in Asturia might be quite decisive. We have a very competent group of guys here even though there's only one rider from the Tour line-up. All nine of us are highly motivated and that's what counts." For a full race preview read Contador aiming for Grand Tour treble.
Directeur Sportif Scott Sunderland agreed Sastre on the team's strength. "As usual we have a broad team with a lot of different strengths. Both Karsten Kroon and Alexandr Kolobnev are able to neutralise breaks in all kinds of terrain, and for the sprints in the first week, we have Haedo and Matti. Then we have Volodimir Gustov, Iñigo Cuesta and Michael Blaudzun, whose jobs are to assist Carlos as much as possible. If Jurgen is as strong in the mountains as last year he should be able to do well."
Blaudzun will enjoy every moment as he supports Sastre. The Dane is ending his career this season. "Of course it'll be quite a strange experience for me. I'll be nostalgic at times I'm sure, but I'm at peace with my decision and I've had time to get used to the idea since I made it during last winter. But I'm looking forward to this race and I hope to be able to do well in both the first time trial and as helper for Carlos along the way," he said.