Former Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) admits the thought of racing hard in the Pyrénées over the coming days is not exactly getting him excited.
But the 2008 winner said he is hopeful of teasing his stuttering climbing legs into production mode in a bid to re-launch his bid for a top finish.
“When we previewed the Pyrénées before the Tour, we knew it was going to be hard. I am trying to stay calm. I don’t know what to expect,” said Sastre, who lies 15th overall at 7 minutes and 34 seconds behind yellow jersey Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank).
“I felt good on the climb at Mende (on stage 12) and the team is riding well. Tomorrow (Sunday) is a true mountain stage, so that will tell us a lot,” said Sastre.
“But I am taking it day by day. Anything is possible.”
Sunday’s 14th stage, the first of four in the Pyrénées, starts easily enough but at the 140km mark the difficult 15.5km climb to the Port de Pailheres begins. It has an average gradient of 7.9 percent, and is the second hors categorie climb of the race.
The descent leads to the foot of the tough 7.8km climb to Ax-3-Domaines, the second summit finish of this year’s Tour.
In 2003, Sastre won stage 13 there, and the Spaniard says he has “good memories of Ax-3-Domaines from my victory there.”
“But it’s all about having good legs and good sensations at the right moment,” he added. “This Tour has been hard, with a lot of heat and stress. Now we have the Pyrénées, and the climbers will have a chance to do something.”