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By Andrew Hood
Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre wants more than to defend his yellow jersey in 2009.
The 33-year-old Spanish climber revealed an ambitious racing calendar that includes taking aim at the Giro d’Italia podium and the world championships as well as a defense of the Tour along the way.
First up will be the Giro, where Sastre said he has some unfinished business with the season’s first grand tour.
“I have podiums in the Vuelta and the Tour, so I would like to try to get a podium in the Giro to complete this achievement in all three grand tours,” Sastre told VeloNews. Sastre was third in the 2005 Vuelta and won the climbers jersey in 2000. “I’d like to give it a try. It’s a new challenge for me.”
Sastre was the star attraction in Sunday’s team presentation of the new Cervélo TestTeam along Portugal’s Algarve coast.
The defending Tour champ was the last rider introduced in an hour-long presentation of both the men’s and women’s squads that will race under the new Cervélo sponsorship in 2009.
“This year for me everything is new. A new team, a new project and new goals,” he said. “Even though there are a lot of young riders on this team, I feel like I am the youngest rider here. I have that spark inside me like a junior rider.”
Sastre has twice ridden the Giro, but this time it will be under dramatically different conditions.
“I’ve been to the Giro two times, but each time I was riding for someone else who reached the podium, first with Tyler Hamilton and then with Ivan Basso,” he said. “I want to arrive in the best condition possible to the Giro and then we’ll see if the podium is within reach.”
Sastre believes the mountainous Giro route matches up well to his characteristics.
And he’s not worried about the presence of such star riders as seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong or former teammate Ivan Basso.
“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my rivals,” he said. “I have to do my work and be ready to race, that’s all I am concerned about right now.”
Sastre will make his season debut in the Tour of California and then return to race in Spain before the Ardennes classics. Then it’s straight to the Giro with a scheduled racing break ahead of the Tour.
“It will be an honor to wear the No. 1 bib at the Tour, but I am not going to be the only favorite,” he said. “Armstrong will be there and everyone will be paying attention to him. That’s fine with me. I will be ready to do my work and I have confidence in my team.”
Sastre also said he’s taking extra interest in the world championships. The more challenging Mendrisio course also plays in his favor, and after riding in support at other world championships, Sastre is considering a run at the rainbow jersey.
2009 Schedule for Carlos Sastre
Tour of California (Feb. 14-22)
Vuelta a Castilla y León (March 23-27)
Vuelta al País Vasco (April 6-11)
Flèche Wallonne (April 22)
Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 26)
Giro d’Italia (May 9-31)
Tour de France (July 4-26)
World Championship (Sept. 27)