An interview with Sandy Casar, July 25, 2008
Sandy Casar is on his way to get his best result at the Tour de France since he came 16th overall in 2004. He's the best Frenchman again. But nothing would make him happier than a stage win, as he told Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet after the Alpine stages.
The starting area of stage 18 in Bourg d'Oisans was absolutely crowded and chaotic but it was a relief for the riders to look up and watch the mountains for the last time. The hardest part of the Tour was over. Sandy Casar of Française des Jeux revealed his physical state. "For the first time since the start of the race in Brest, I feel tired."
Maybe because of that, he was one of the first riders to crash en route to Saint-Etienne. He wasn't hurt like Damiano Cunego would be later on but he could feel all the fatigue of almost three weeks of racing on his shoulders. It means he was right to skip the Giro this year, a race he finished in sixth position two years ago before struggling badly at the Tour de France.
Several times, Casar was reportedly tired even before the start of the Tour de France. "But I can't refrain myself from racing during the Spring," he explained. "I like cycling so much. Whether I do the Giro or not, every year it's the same, I start the Tour with about 65 days of racing."
In Brest, he was scared of the first stages. "That's not what I like", he explained. "It's extremely nervous in the bunch, the crowd is big and enthusiastic. The risk of crashing is huge." In fact, after only four days of racing he was 7'31 down on the maillot jaune! And that was in Cholet, a town where he used to live and study when he was 19.
His 124th place in the overall standings didn't bother him. "After a few disappointments I have decided to ride the Tour without being stressed by the overall classification." His stage win in Angoulême last year made him much happier than anything else he experienced at the Tour de France since he started doing it in 2002. The best result he got in Paris was 16th in 2004. France is so desperately looking for somebody to ride GC that he has had a lot of pressure for doing so.
"But I'm not enough of a pure climber for that," he noticed. "Only if I'm riding with good form, I can find the rhythm in the mountains and I fight. I'm a fighter." He fought pretty well in the Pyrénées and made the front group behind Riccardo Riccò in Bagnères-de-Bigorre. He was also 21st in Hautacam. He attacked in the early part of stage 14 to Digne-les-Bains, but things didn't work out. "After 15 kilometres, I realised that we wouldn't make it."
So he attacked again as soon as another opportunity occurred in stage 16. He finished second in Jausiers behind his compatriot Cyril Dessel from AG2R La Mondiale. He feelings were all too clear after the stage. "I'm sick of coming in second." It was his fourth time finishing as runner-up in a stage of the Tour de France! In 2005 he was beaten by David Moncoutié, also in Digne-les-Bains, and Giuseppe Guerini (in Le Puy-en-Velay). In 2007, only Cédric Vasseur was faster than Casar into Marseille.
"I came to the Tour de France this year to win a stage again," he said in Bourg d'Oisans. "My only chance left is to do a coup in Montluçon," he added, meaning that he's not satisfied with his 14th place overall. He gained three places every day in the Alps and one more in Saint-Etienne because of Cunego dropping down after a crash.
"I really don't care about being the first Frenchman on GC," he insisted. He was asked before the Alps if there would be a war between him, Amaël Moinard from Cofidis and AG2R's Stéphane Goubert, the oldest rider in the Tour. Goubert was already the best placed Frenchman in Paris last year (27th). "No way that I would have raced tactically against my compatriots only for the honour of being the first of us on GC in Paris," Casar said.
But the fact is that he is the best Frenchman of the Tour de France. At the age of 29, he has become an important person in this race although he would never be satisfied without a stage win.
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