By Andrew Hood
Carlos Sastre, the 2008 Tour de France champion, says he won’t commit to racing the 2010 Tour until he’s studied the routes of all three grand tours.
After getting a glimpse of what’s a harder, more climber-friendly Tour in Wednesday’s roll-out of the 2010 route, Sastre’s comments over doubts of a possible Tour start come as a surprise.
“Right now, I still haven’t decided which races I am going to race next year and, until I’ve seen the Vuelta route, I don’t want to reveal anything yet,” Sastre said on audio comments posted on his personal Web page. “We’ll know the Giro route this weekend and when I’ve seen all the routes, that will be the moment to make a balance and decide which of them I will focus on as the central objective in 2010.”
The Giro route will be revealed later this month while the Vuelta traditionally isn’t unveiled until December, meaning Sastre’s seasonal plans for 2010 might not be firmed up for several more weeks.
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.
Sastre struggled, however, in 2009, finishing a distant 17th while wearing the No. 1 bib as the defending champion.
He didn’t hide his annoyance and disappointment, 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. It was, nonetheless, his best-ever performance in the Italian tour.
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 skipped attending Wednesday’s Tour presentation and watched with interest via television and Internet from his home in Ávila, Spain.
“My absence is due to fact that two riders on the team were very excited to attend the ceremony, as was the case with Thor Hushovd, who made a great Tour, and Heinrich Haussler,” he said. “Since I already know what the presentation is all about, I preferred to skip it because I wanted to be at home and take a little break from cycling events.”
With Sastre and 2006 Tour winner Oscar Pereiro both absent from Wednesday’s presentation, Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador were the only active Tour winners to attend the event.