Spanish pro Carlos Sastre will use the upcoming Volta a Catalunya (May 19-25) as part of his build-up to the Tour de France in July. The CSC rider has only participated once before in the race, in 2005, but still reckons the event will help him find the desired peak of form for the French Grand Tour.
"I have good memories of the race [in 2005 - ed.], because Iñigo Cuesta won the mountain time trial in Arcalís, and I felt better with every day that passed," Sastre said. "I was a little short at the start, but little by little I progressed."
The stage race specialist took three weeks off racing after having competed in Castilla y León, País Vasco and the Ardennes Classics. Nevertheless, his training sessions were intense enough to prepare him for Catalunya with a certain amount of ambition.
"From now on, everything changes for me," he continued. "After a tranquil beginning [of the season], without race responsibilities, I have to start competing with the intention of suffering and fighting to reach that peak of form that I want, and that I need to go to the Tour."
During the last few years, the CSC captain has seldom repeated the same race programme ahead of the big event in July. Alternating between the Tour de Romandie, the Dauphiné Libéré, the Tour de Suisse or even the Giro d'Italia, Sastre did not think his top form was affected by the changes from year to year.
"All paths lead to the same destination, the only difference is how you travel them," he pondered. "This year, I chose Catalunya and the Dauphiné because in the first part of the season, I already accomplished some personal goals that gave me enough confidence to take a small rest. That way, I prepare the Tour with the races that I like and that, for different reasons, I wasn't able to do previously. This time, I approach them in a different way and with a good basis."
Sastre never speaks about possible favourites or rivals prior to a race, but he did comment on the parcours. "It is demanding, like every year," he said. "It is difficult enough to cause important damage. In every stage, there are places where things can happen, so it is very attractive for the public. Moreover, introducing circuits where we will pass several times will make the spectators cheer us on ever more."