Sastre honors late brother-in-law, teammates, after securing the yellow jersey

Carlos Sastre is poised to become the seventh Spanish rider in history to win the Tour de France. Barring catastrophe, the Team CSC-Saxo Bank rider will ride into Paris on Sunday as the third consecutive Spanish Tour winner. The 33-year-old surprised many after he fended off the time trial threats of Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov to retain the leader’s jersey. Sastre spoke with reporters after Saturday’s stage. Here’s a sampling of what he had to say. Question: What are you feeling now with the yellow jersey?

Carlos Sastre is poised to become the seventh Spanish rider in history to win the Tour de France. Barring catastrophe, the Team CSC-Saxo Bank rider will ride into Paris on Sunday as the third consecutive Spanish Tour winner.

The 33-year-old surprised many after he fended off the time trial threats of Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov to retain the leader’s jersey.

Sastre spoke with reporters after Saturday’s stage. Here’s a sampling of what he had to say.

Question: What are you feeling now with the yellow jersey?

Carlos Sastre: Finally I have the yellow jersey. It’s a dream come true from when I first started cycling. It’s difficult to explain my emotions. I want to continue on with my career, and I know I will have good moments and bad moments. I’m just so happy to have the yellow jersey on my shoulders today.

Q.: What was the key to your ability to keep the jersey today?

CS: The most important thing was the confidence Bjarne Riis and the other managers and teammates gave me. They always believed in me, and every decision was taken together. My teammates gave 1000 percent and more. Riders like [Fabian] Cancellara, [Stuart] O’Grady and Frank Schleck sacrificed their own chances of stage wins to protect me. I am an athlete who enjoys to speak but also to listen to others. I think it’s important to communicate with my teammates. I had confidence in them, and vice versa, they had confidence in me.

Q.: Would you have believed three weeks ago you would win the Tour?

CS: I came here with huge motivation. I was better prepared than ever, and there were some circumstances that were outside my control. I managed to deal with the situation and dedicated every day, day after day through today, to win. But until tomorrow I won’t truly believe I’ve won. There’s still one day to go.

Q.: Who inspired you as a rider?

One rider was [Laurent] Jalabert. We rode together for three years at ONCE, he’s a great rider and also has very human qualities. We rode together again at CSC and I discovered different qualities. He was riding for fun, not just to win. I learned through Jalabert to enjoy racing.

Q.: What was the gesture at the end of today’s stage?

CS: It’s true, I am a quiet person. The gesture at the finish was dedicated to someone who is no longer alive, José María Jiménez. He was my brother-in-law, and we were together all the time. We shared a lot together, but tragically he died and although I’m here alone on the Tour, today he was with me. I wanted to share my victory with him.

Q.: Why should the public believe in this win after three lesser riders tested positive this year?

CS: I am confident and I know that I am clean because I know how much I suffered, and how much I dedicated myself for so many years to achieve this. There were, are and will always be some people who are going to cheat, but there will be always people who are clean, and know how to suffer and how to train. In our generation, and in today’s society, we can’t get rid of doping and cheating. There’s always going to be someone who cheats, not just in cycling. But we can fight hard to reduce the cheaters. What counts is that we fight these cheaters.

Q.: You worked with Manolo Saíz, do you stay in contact with him?

CS: Since I left ONCE we don’t speak together. We’ve taken different paths, we have two different points of view. But at ONCE, Manolo taught me how to suffer, the ways to be pro, he taught me to train, and I learned more from him than anyone else. I left his team because I had no opportunities to win. I had to work for riders like Jalabert, [Abraham] Olano, and I had only one occasion to lead the team, at the Tour of Burgos. I won the race, and that was an important moment in my career when I found out I could win. Manolo was 10 years advanced in terms of the structure he had on bikes, training, and I owe my TT skills in thanks to Manolo. He wanted the best for his riders. But I don’t want to judge on anything that’s gone on with him.