Sunday, July 27, 2008
Sastre takes his first grand tour
Spain's Carlos Sastre wrapped up his maiden Tour de France triumph on Sunday following the final stage of the race into Paris.
Sastre, a 33-year-old climbing specialist who rides for the CSC team, became the eighth Spaniard to win the race's yellow jersey and the third consecutively after Oscar Pereiro (2006) and Alberto Contador (2007).
Silence-Lotto's Cadel Evans was runner-up for the second consecutive year, the Australian finishing 1min 05sec behind Sastre after failing to eradicate a 1min 34sec deficit to the Spaniard in the penultimate stage time trial.
A surprise third place went to Gerolsteiner's Bernhard Kohl of Austria, who stepped onto the podium in Paris wearing the polka dot jersey for the race's 'King of the Mountains'.
Last year's 'King of the Mountains' winner, Colombian Mauricio Soler, quit the race before the halfway stage after a number of crashes.
Sastre's CSC team had cause for further celebration, having topped the teams' classification and seen Andy Schleck win the white jersey for the best placed rider aged 25 and under. Schleck's older brother Frank - the Luxembourg champion - finished in sixth place overall having worn the yellow jersey for two days in the Alps.
Rabobank sprinter Oscar Freire meanwhile made history by becoming the first Spaniard to win the race's green jersey for the points classification.
Freire, who also won the 14th stage, topped the points classification ahead of Germany's former six-time winner Erik Zabel. Freire made sure of keeping the jersey with a third place finish in the sprint behind Gerald Ciolek and final stage winner Gert Steegmans of Belgium.
The only French 'winner' of anything resembling a jersey was Cofidis all-rounder Sylvain Chavanel, who was awarded the largely symbolic title of the race's most aggressive rider. Chavanel, 29, claimed his maiden stage win on the race on Friday, bringing the hosts' victory tally to three following stage wins by his teammate Samuel Dumoulin and Cyril Dessel of AG2R.
France, however, is still waiting for an heir to five-time champion Bernard Hinault, the last Frenchman to win the yellow jersey, in 1985.
Française des Jeux all-rounder Sandy Casar, who finished second in the stage won by Dessel, topped the standings for the home riders in 14th overall.
Sastre's victory is his first in a major three-week race. Previously, his best results was his two runner-up places in the Vuelta d'Espana. The unassuming Spaniard took possession of the yellow jersey when he launched a daring solo attack at the foot of the race's final mountain climb, coming over the Alpe d'Huez finish line 2:15 ahead of Evans. His subsequent 1:34 overall lead on Evans proved decisive.
Sastre began the race as an outsider, but his consistency - thanks to the textbook support work of his strong CSC team - proved key. On the penultimate stage time trial, he held his nerve - and produced the race of his life - to keep a faltering Evans in his wake.
Compatriot Alejandro Valverde, one of the big pre-race race favourites with Evans, dropped out of virtual contention on the 10th stage. On the second of three days in the Pyrenees, the pace of CSC proved too much for Valverde, who finished five minutes off the pace of stage winner Leonardo Piepoli.
Italian outsider Damiano Cunego, the former Giro d'Italia winner who won the Tour's white jersey on his only previous participation in 2004, struggled with the pace in the first week and pulled out after sustaining injuries to his chin and thorax during the 19th stage.