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Sastre to debut at Tour of California

Giro still up in the air

Sastre wrapped up ’08 at CSC and is now leading the new Cervélo squad.

Photo: Agence France Presse

Defending Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre will kick start his 2009 season at the Tour of California in February to debut with his Cervélo new team colors.

The 33-year-old Spanish climber says the Tour remains his top goal for the upcoming season, but said still hasn’t decided if the road to France will pass through the Giro d’Italia or not.

“If I go to the Giro, it’s to be 100 percent, but you have to remember that there’s still time to start this new project,” Sastre said in an interview with the Spanish wire service, EFE. “I will start at the Tour of California, then I will race the Tour of the Basque Country and some of the classics. Later I will decide if I race the Giro or not. If I don’t, I will have the Vuelta instead.”

Sastre’s new look: The Tour winner will be sporting Cervélo colors in California.

Photo: Cérvelo

Sastre said he’s excited about a new start at Cervélo, which he joined at the end of 2008 after riding seven years under the tutelage of Bjarne Riis at CSC. The pair parted in somewhat contentious terms, but Sastre said he’s ready to turn the page.

“I’m fine with CSC, I don’t owe them anything and they don’t owe me anything,” he said. “Since the Vuelta, I haven’t had any communication with their directors. The experience on the team was positive. With them, I lived beautiful moments and other difficult, both professionally and personally. I also learned a language, which is important.”

The switch to the still untested Cervélo provides Sastre with new challenges that he says provides him with extra motivation going into what will be a very high-profile season for the amicable Spanish rider.

“(Cervélo) is team that I like a lot. It doesn’t have a lot of well-known names, but there are people with quality and experience, like Thor Hushovd. We have a homogenous structure and I am excited about the project,” he said. “With me I will have (Simon) Gerrans, Xavier Florencio, Iñigo Cuesta and Angel Gómez Marchante.”

Since winning the Tour and finishing third in the Vuelta a España, Sastre has been busy attending a seemingly endless stream of charity events, speaking engagements and other homenajes to his dramatic victory.

During the holidays, Sastre auctioned off one of his yellow jerseys for 15,000 euros (about $18,000) to help a local cycling club in his hometown province of Ávila.

Sastre heads to Portugal’s Algarve coast this weekend for a 10-day training camp to become better acquainted with his new Cervélo teammates.

The group got together in December, but this will be the new squad’s first major camp.

At 33, Sastre admits he’s nearing the end of his career, but insists he’s focusing on the immediate task at hand of defending his Tour championship.

“When I leave cycling, it will be in a definitive manner, not like (Lance) Armstrong,” he said. “The end (of my career) is near, but I have challenges ahead of me that motivate me. As of now, I have signed two years with Cervélo and later we’ll see. I still have the spark of a youngster.”

Concerning Armstrong’s return after a three-year absence, Sastre said he’s concentrating on his own work at hand.

“The return of Armstrong? I respect his decision, but until I see him on the bike, I don’t know how he will be,” he said. “But it’s something that I don’t dedicate a lot of time to. I’m not losing any sleep over it.”

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