With reporting by Hedwig Kröner in Saint Amand Montrond
At age 33, Carlos Sastre is on the eve of realising the dream of his ten year career: he is riding into Paris in the yellow jersey, nearly assured of the final Tour de France victory. Coming into the time trial in Saint Amand Montrond, the majority of fans and journalists only gave Sastre an outside hope of stopping Cadel Evans from gaining back the one minute 34 seconds needed to strip the maillot jaune off his shoulders, but were all proven wrong.
Sastre wasn't sure how Evans felt on the course, but knew that he himself gave everything to win the Tour. As the leader of the Tour, he was the last man to start. As such, he could measure himself against the times of Evans as well as those of his team-mates including world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara. "I had the advantage of having the intermediate times of Cancellara and all of those that rode out before me," he said.
Sastre put in the ride of his life, only conceding 29 seconds to the Australian.
"It's a fantastic feeling and I'm not sure I've taken it all in yet. I felt strong and my legs were good already during warm-up. And as it was hot and there was no wind I knew the conditions would suit me perfectly. The rest was up to me and I gave everything I had – and I couldn't expect more from myself so it was all or nothing basically," said Sastre after the stage.
For Sastre, winning the Tour is a culmination of years of either working at the service of others during the French race or falling short of expectations, mainly due to his lack of prowess in the time trials. He finished in the top ten of the Tour no fewer than five times, and has been on the podium of a Grand Tour twice before.
"I'm very happy, and serene. All my life, I sacrificed so much for this; and all of my family sacrificed so much for me to realise this dream," Sastre said. "I feel so relaxed now that I succeeded. I worked all my life for this, ever since I became a professional. It's hard to realise that I finally achieved it."