2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre was finally given reason to smile after relaunching his stuttering campaign on the tough eighth stage on Sunday.
As American Lance Armstrong suffered arguably his worst day on the race, Sastre held firm with a group containing most of the favourites as they raced over two category one climbs towards the summit finish at Avoriaz.
(Related: Stage 8 results)
Cervelo team leader Sastre, who beat Australian Cadel Evans to the title in 2008, eventually finished among a group containing Evans and reigning champion Alberto Contador.
While another challenger, Andy Schleck, attacked in the final kilometer to win the stage, and Evans took the yellow jersey, Sastre moved up 14 places to 12th overall at 2 minutes 40 seconds behind the Australian.
“I am satisfied with today’s stage. I was with the leaders of the race and I didn’t lose time to any important riders in this Tour de France,” said the Spaniard.
“It was a very hard stage. The first nine days of the Tour were not easy for anyone. I am happy that all the problems we had at the beginning of the race are behind us.
“Now everything is good. I am feeling better every day and can be optimistic for the coming days. I am very satisfied.
“The last two kilometers were hard, but the last 15 kilometers were very hard. We were there and I had the support from my teammates that I needed.”
Climbing specialist Sastre meanwhile will be looking forward to a third week which features four days in the Pyrenees.
Cervelo sport director Jean-Paul van Poppel said he was delighted with Sastre’s race: “You see that the first mountain stage and only 13 riders are left in the final, and Carlos is there.
“We also saw other riders have some troubles. It’s a wonderful start, because we know we only get better from here.”