By Gregor Brown in Angoulême
The 55.5-kilometre time trial between Cognac and Angoulême will likely decide the Tour de France when Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans go head to head, but there will be another tight battle on the roads through the Charente department as CSC's Carlos Sastre fights to keep his fourth overall from Haimar Zubeldia of Euskaltel-Euskadi. There are only 27 seconds separating the two Spaniards, and for Sastre, it is a matter of pride and a difference in 70,000 and 50,000 Euros in prize money.
Friday morning, as the sun was beating its rays down on the holiday town of Cahors, 32 year-old Sastre explained that he is a little bit worried about keeping his spot in the general classification to the younger Basque (30 years-old).
"He is really close, but I am here to fight and I will do my best in the time trial," said Sastre, who comes from Madrid, to Cyclingnews. "Normally in the last time trial we were at the same level. I don't know what will happen but I will worry, for sure."
The Danish team started the Tour with Fränk Schleck and Sastre as captains but its first week was filled with glory as Fabian Cancellara took the maillot jaune on day one in London, which he held it to Le Grand-Bornand. Sastre had the help of Schleck in the mountains and, along with his steady riding, he remained in the top-end of the GC even with a loss of 20 seconds to Zubeldia on stage 16 to Col d'Aubisque.
"I started with the podium as my dream for this Tour, it is not possible but still I am here to fight, and to do my best in the time trial to maintain my fourth position." Overall, he is content with his performance in this year's race. "I am happy because I came here and went at the top of my capabilities. It is just that two or three riders have better legs than I do. You have to be realistic. I give my congratulations to them, and I am happy for myself."
Zubeldia rose to fame in the shadow of Iban Mayo at Euskaltel-Euskadi. Once the past Tour stage-winner passed over to Saunier Duval this last winter, Zubeldia took over the captain's role for the Basque team heading into the Tour. Sastre knows his rival well from their amateur days in Spain and this will help him as he defends himself on Saturday.
"He is from the Basque region and I am from Madrid but I know him well. When we were amateur riders, we raced in many of the same races. I have known him for many years. He is here to try his best but I will be going at my best as well."