Fight until the end
"I have reached the last week of the Vuelta in good condition," said Sastre. "I am calm, I am...
Carlos Sastre interview, September 14, 2006
Team CSC rider Carlos Sastre is a rider who always appears to be patient and polite to the myriad journalists who are competing for his time. His politeness and good manners are rare qualities, especially for elite sportspeople in their dealings with the press. Sastre is still within striking distance of the lead in the Vuelta a España although he has not been the strongest climber in the race. Despite this, he has vowed to fight all the way to Madrid. Cyclingnews spoke to Sastre on rest day 2.
"I have reached the last week of the Vuelta in good condition," said Sastre. "I am calm, I am relaxed; things are okay. The team is doing fantastic, splendid work and has been super-important to me so far. Now I may need a lot of them because we approach to the final straight and we must `use all the bullets´ to try to win the Vuelta a España. I need to be at 100 percent but I also need of them."
Sastre's chances to attack are in the mountain stages. "Yes, of course," confirmed the CSC rider. "They are the places where differences can appear. I am a rider with the characteristics of a climber; if I have some strength this is where I have to make time gains, where I have to supplant my rivals. Of course, any mountainous stage like the three coming stages is good. Any chance is good."
Sastre intends to choose his terrain carefully when he attacks before the end of the Vuelta. "With my characteristics, to attack on an intermediate climb is crazy because I can not do a race alone against a whole team. There should be some circumstances that are good for me to play a strategy like that. Therefore, at first, it's important to wait until the last moment. That is when races are won and when a real difference can be made. I will try to wait for a promising situation, for a rider to fail, or simply when I find myself feeling strong. I will try to get the maximum performance from my legs in that stage."
Sastre's team-mates will play their part in those mountain stages. "I think I have a strong team," said Sastre. "For mountain stages I would mention Lars Ytting Bak, Nicki Sorensen, Volodymir Gustov and Iñigo Cuesta. They are the four riders who ride well in the mountains. They are the four riders who in this kind of stages can do a great work for me. I can never forget the other three riders who I have in the team like Stuart O'Grady, Marcus Ljungqvist or Kurt-Asle Arvesen because in the coming stages Fabian Cancellara won't be with us. In the mountainous stages in the first 10 days, they did sensational work for the team and were on a very good level. I think the four riders I mentioned first can help me but any rider can be important for me on any of these stages."
Referring to his chance to ride the Worlds representing Spain, he answered, "The most important thing for me is to be focused in the Vuelta a España. My first goal is the Vuelta. Then, the decision won't be mine; it is the coach's [Paco Antequera] decision, he made a selection of 14 riders, which included my name. I am on the list together with my team-mate Iñigo Cuesta. Then, it will be his [Antequera] decision if he thinks I should be or not in the list."
Sastre is still close to Alejandro Valverde on GC but he is realistic about his chances at winning the race overall. "I see myself with the white [combined classification] jersey that is the one I wear right now. It's not mine [Valverde leads that classification too] but it is the one I will use on stage 16. I see myself fighting for the maillot oro. Whether I get it or not is another matter. I will fight if I find myself well and I have no problem, I will try to fight for that jersey until the last day."
Rest days are the oasis in the desert for the riders in such long races. "The rest days are to rest and not do much," commented Sastre. "You have to follow a routine but keep in mind that there is the remaining competition stress that the race gives. You have to follow the habits of a normal competition day. You have to rest as much as possible and to recover strengths facing the next coming stages."
Can riders do other activities on rest days like take a walk in the city or go shopping? "You need an important goal - in my case that is to try to win the Vuelta a España," replied the Spaniard. "To go shopping or walk in the city is not what I want the most at the moment. I try to get the most of the day to rest, to be relaxed as it is one of the few moments that I have on my own. So, I try to relax and get the most of the moment in order to be ready when I have to."
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By James Witts