Carlos Sastre is adamant that his preparation for the Giro d’Italia has been unaffected by the uncertainty that surrounded his Geox-TMC team’s racing programme earlier in the season. Although the squad failed to secure an invitation to the Tour de France, Sastre explained that a Giro d’Italia was always in his sights and so his early season plans were not disrupted.
"My plan in November was to do the Giro d’Italia, so for that reason nothing changed in my programme," Sastre told Cyclingnews in Borgaro Torinese on Thursday. "The beginning of the season was not easy, but finally I am here at the Giro d’Italia. My condition is not bad. I feel quite happy with how I am in this moment, so now I will see how my body reacts and how my condition is."
Sastre is joined in Italy by Denis Menchov, who returns to the Giro for the first time since his victory in the centenary edition of 2009, and the co-leaders will form an intriguing double act on the race. Both hugely experienced riders, Sastre is confident that their talents will dovetail in the best interests of the team.
"I think that we know each other very well and we can work without any problems," Sastre said. "We have a really hard Giro d’Italia in front of us, and sometimes it is better to play two cards rather than only one.
"If you have two riders who can hope to win the Giro then it’s much better than only one. We have our two cards and you can look to play those cards at the right moment."
Sastre cited Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) as the biggest obstacles facing the Geox-TMC tandem at the Giro. Although Contador’s sporting fate is yet to be decided by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Sastre believes that his fellow countryman can block out the ongoing ruminations over his Clebuterol positive at last year’s Tour de France and focus on the task in hand.
"I think he’s started the season well," Sastre said. "In this way, he’s shown that he can think in the present and I think he will be 100 percent focused at the Giro."
The 2011 Giro showcases one of the toughest Grand Tour routes of recent years, and its gruelling final week promises to offer a particularly sharp sting in the tail. Faced with such an exacting course, some riders might seek to conserve their energy in the opening two weeks, but Sastre was not overly concerned by how his rivals might approach the Giro and is instead focused on his own race.
"I don’t know, it’s going to be difficult if I start to think about what everyone else is going to do," he told Cyclingnews. "I think it’s enough to know what we want to do. We’re here because the Giro d’Italia is really important for us, and we’re going to try everything here."
The Giro gruppo will begin climbing as soon as the first week, however, and Sastre reckons that the summit finishes on stage 7 and 9 will offer some early indications of who can and cannot wear the pink jersey in Milan.
"At Montevergine after seven days, some important rider is going to try something, that’s for sure," Sastre pointed out. "Then after almost 10 days, it’s going to be a hard climb at Etna. After ten hard days, and coming before the rest day, we’re going to have some surprises."