After weeks of hinting he might skip the Tour de France, Carlos Sastre has confirmed that he will be at the start line in Rotterdam for the 2010 edition.
Sastre skipped the 2010 Tour presentation last month and was ambiguous in his comments about what his racing calendar would look like next season, suggesting he wanted to wait to see the official route of next year’s Vuelta a España, revealed next month, before making a final decision.
The 2008 Tour champ is still holding out until the Vuelta presentation next month, but now he’s saying that the Tour will be on his schedule no matter what.
“The Tour has been my race and I want to go back and do it well,” Sastre told the Spanish media.
Sastre looks to race the Tour and either the Vuelta or Giro d’Italia as part of his 2010 season.
The Spanish climber has all but disappeared from public view in the months following the 2009 Tour, when he finished a distant 17th while wearing the No. 1 bib of the defending champion.
Sastre said his “descanso” came at a good time and it’s given him a chance to reflect on his career and recapture enthusiasm for racing.
“I want to recovery the spark that I was missing this year,” Sastre said. “I still haven’t defined what raced I am going to race in 2010, but what I have certain is that it will be a season that’s very different than the one that just finished.”
Sastre admitted he liked what he saw for what’s on tap for the 2010 Tour. With fewer kilometers against the clock and a decisive final week across the Pyrénées, the route favors the Cervélo climber’s characteristics.
“I believe that it’s a hard Tour, harder than this year,” he said. “The route favors in this occasion riders who are not time trial specialists, but rather the climbers. I believe in this sense, it’s a spectacular Tour for the climbers.”
It’s hard to imagine Sastre skipping the Tour, especially with what will be a climb-laden final week across the Pyrénées, including a return to Aix-3 Domaines, a summit finish where Sastre won a stage in 2003.
Sastre, 34, has been one of the most consistent Tour performers in the last decade, notching six top-10 results in nine career Tour starts, including third in 2006 and his dramatic victory atop Alpe d’Huez to confirm his overall victory in 2008.
He didn’t hide his annoyance and disappointment in the 2009 Tour, and roundly criticized the media in a frustration-fueled rest-day harangue for focusing solely on the Armstrong-Contador rivalry at the expense of other riders in the Tour peloton. He later apologized for his comments.
Sastre, who once raced five consecutive grand tours, isn’t afraid to shake up his racing calendar.
This season, he skipped the Vuelta for the first time in six years to make a run at the podium at the Giro d’Italia, where he won two spectacular climbing stages but fell short of the podium with fourth overall. He might get his wish to notch podium rides in all three grand tours if runner-up Danilo Di Luca, who later tested positive for CERA, is disqualified.
Sastre also said he likes what he sees for next year’s Giro d’Italia.
With a climber’s course laden with monster climbs, including the Mortirolo, the Gavia, Zoncolan and Plan de Corones, the punishing Giro course could well tempt Sastre back to the Italian tour in 2010.
“It’s a very attractive final week, defined by three summit finishes practically back-to-back, and a time trial that will be the cherry on the cake,” Sastre said after reviewing the Giro course presented Saturday in Milan. “It is a Giro that will benefit climbers. This Giro is harder than last year’s, which includes eight stages longer than 200km and one, 256km marathon, something in recent years we only see in the Giro.”
The 2010 Vuelta route will be revealed Dec. 16 in Sevilla, Spain.