sastre2003
Sastre in 2003

Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) let pride fuel his legs Sunday as the 2008 Tour de France went on a long-distance attack to prove to the world he can still be a factor.

The Spanish climber surged away at the base of the Port de Pailhères in a bid to try to win on the same roads where he won his first career Tour stage back in 2003. Sastre’s effort fell short, but he promises there’s more to come.

“Today was a special day for me. I won here in 2003, and today I had extra motivation. Maybe I cannot win the Tour de France, I am here to fight and do my best,” Sastre said. “We tried, but we couldn’t do it, but if you don’t try, you never know.”

Sastre won here in 2003 in a solo attack that ended with one of cycling’s most memorable finish-line celebrations when he popped a baby pacifier in his mouth. He still races every day with the token of good luck in his back jersey, this time, with two to remind him of his two children.

Sastre was hoping the fond memories would help him in a very difficult challenge. A breakaway was still more than three minutes off the front. Sastre whittled a one-minute gap on the GC group coming over the Pailhères, but that wasn’t enough to reel in eventual stage-winner Chistophe Riblon (Ag2r). Sastre was caught by the surging GC contenders with 4km to go and crossed the line 10th at 1:49 back.

Just two years after winning the Tour, he sat alone under an umbrella at the Cervélo team car as a horde of journalists crowded around Alberto Contador, whose Astana team cars were parked right next to him.

At 15th overall at 8:15 back, Sastre knows he has no chance of winning the 2010 Tour, but he vows to keep fighting. “I am feeling closer to the Carlos Sastre that everyone knows,” he said. “There are three more stages in the Pyrénées and I would like to try again to win a stage.”

Riddled with health problems dating back to two crashes in the Giro d’Italia that left him with a herniated disk, Sastre was a last-minute addition to the Cervélo Tour squad. Another crash on the cobblestones in stage 3 didn’t help, but Sastre says he’s feeling better as the Tour turns into four brutal days across the Pyrénées.

“Carlos is really a fighter, he proved that again today,” said Cervélo sport director Jean-Paul van Poppel. “The riders have to feel good and they have to make the decision to attack. He’s smart enough, he’s seven minutes or more back in the GC, so if he wants to go for a stage, that was the best moment to attack on the Pailhères.”

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