Carlos Sastre, 2008 Tour de France winner, survived a challenging first week of the 2010 race - a hot one that was filled with crashes, cobbles and even some mountains. The 35-year-old Spaniard, enjoying a rest day on Monday, spoke at the Cervélo TestTeam's press conference in Morzine, France.
Sastre sits contentedly in 12th place after Sunday's stage 8. "I was good enough to be with the leaders [on Sunday]. There was a lot of anticipation for the stage. No one knew what to expect. The first week was full of tension, a lot of crashes, heat, wind. I am tranquil. This Tour is just beginning.
"I have not set any definitive objectives for this Tour," said Sastre. "I am enjoying the race from a different point of view this year. I am taking it day by day. This Tour is going to be one of resistance. If it stays hot, the Pyrénées are going to be a barbarity. If I have the opportunity, I will try something, but I haven't made any specific plan. I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to start the Tour."
Sastre referred to back problems that plagued him during the Giro d'Italia, but he says he's no longer suffering any pain.
He noted that the race is wide open, still with many favorites in contention. "This is the first Tour in a long time where there are so many favorites from so many teams with options to win. It's very wide open.
"Andy Schleck proved he's the most explosive right now, I don't know if he's the strongest. Cadel Evans is very strong psychologically. It will be very hard to take the yellow jersey away from him."
Sastre's teammate Thor Hushovd, who won stage 3, is spending his time comfortably in the green jersey of the race's points leader.
"I won a stage and I have the green jersey, so it's been a fine start to this Tour," said Hushovd. "If I win the green jersey, I will be even happier. If not, I am still very happy with this Tour because I won the stage on the cobblestones.
"I lost a few points in some of the sprints, but I think I will be stronger in the final week. I haven't sprinted for nearly two months because of my broken collarbone, so I am not at top speed, but I am getting better."
Hushovd believes his chances of getting away in a break in the mountains like he did in 2009 are slim to none. "That was the first time I tried something like that. I think that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It would be very hard to repeat it this year. Actually, it's almost impossible."
The team's Sports Director Jean-Paul van Poppel is pleased with his riders' performance. "It's been a good Tour for us so far. At the start of the Tour, we had four goals for the first part of the race. First was to win a stage, and we've done that with Thor. Second was to be strong in the green jersey, and we have the jersey with Thor. Third was to be well-placed in GC, and Carlos is very good. And finally was to give a good team image, and we've done that with how we've raced on the road. So far, we've been very successful.
"We've had a few crashes, but no one is seriously hurt. Another two weeks of the Tour remain, but the team is very good."
Van Poppel cautioned reporters to watch out for Sastre. "If you know what kind of rider he is, he gets better and better as the race unfolds... If he can remain competitive like he has shown so far, we can be optimistic. He will be good in the Pyrénées."
Van Poppel promised the squad would defend the green jersey. "They have to take it away from us. There will be a few more sprint opportunities and Thor can try to pick up sprints if he can. The further the Tour goes, the better it is for Thor. We just have to focus on our race, we're not going to worry about the others."
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