Sastre's Tour defence slips away on the Romme

Cervélo captain rolls the dice on Tour's stage 17

Carlos Sastre’s Tour defence is all but over after he lost seven minutes to race leader Alberto Contador on Wednesday’s mountain stage from Bourg St Maurice to Le Grand Bornand. Sastre had started the stage in ninth place, 3:52 down on Contador, but now sits thirteenth, 11:39 down.

Sastre’s afternoon had started with a promising attack at the base of the category 1 Col de Romme, the day’s penultimate climb. He briefly held a small gap, forcing Saxo Bank to chase as much of the peloton were put into difficulty. However Sastre was quickly caught and had no reaction to Andy Schleck’s brutal attack shortly thereafter.

"I knew it was the only opportunity I had to bust up the race and turn it to my favour. It wasn't meant to be and the others were stronger than me," Sastre said at the finish. "It's a Tour completely different from what I expected. Considering how things are, I have to congratulate Alberto [Contador] for what he's doing.

Sastre had stunned sections of the media during the Tour’s second rest day, saying the press hadn’t paid him due respect as the defending champion, and spending too much time focussing on Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador.

"I was always been calm and collected. I said what I wanted to say, because I believe the press is treating this sport badly. The media doesn't give cycling the importance that it deserves. It's not only me, but for a lot of riders who came to this Tour to make a good race and we've been completely forgotten. It's not jealousy, because we're all making sacrifices in cycling. Only one can win at the Tour," he said.

As for the final stages before Paris, Sastre will look to bounce back and claim a win on Mont Ventoux, the final climb of this year’s Tour de France. "I'd love to win, but there are a lot of riders who want to win, too. I am a rider who likes to fight. I will do what I can do. For the Tour, I always give my all."

For images of stage 17 click here

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