Carlos Sastre’s rollercoaster 2009 season taught him a few things.
The 2008 Tour de France champion was hoping to barnstorm through 2009, but the combined pressure of being the defending yellow jersey and the switch to start-up Cervélo TestTeam cost him more than he expected.
Sastre won two of the most important mountain stages in the Giro d’Italia en route to what was a disappointing fourth place only to implode in the Tour, finishing a distant 17th overall without really ever being a factor in the race.
“I lived the worst moments of the year during the Tour. I started with a lot of high hopes and I thought I was strong. I aspired to be once again back at the top, with the best, but it didn’t take long to realize I was missing something,” Sastre explained in an end-of-season review. “I don’t know what happened, but the sensations were not good the last days. It was an accumulation of feelings and sensations that kept me from my best.”
Sastre, 34, now admits that he might have bitten off more than he could chew.
A busy, post-Tour calendar in 2008 and the commitment to the new Cervélo team were distractions that kept the Spanish climber from the tranquility that he so desires in his run-up to the Tour.
“Later I realized that I was competing at the highest level in four grand tours in only 13 months,” he said. “That, added with the high level of social activities following my Tour victory in the fall of 2008, and the energy I used up helping get Cervélo off the ground, all added up.”
Following his disappointment at the Tour, Sastre skipped the Vuelta a España and retreated from the public eye. That respite seems to have helped recharge his batteries coming into 2010.
“After the Tour, I only thought about resting with my family. I wanted to disappear from the public eye and recover from so much effort and tension,” he said. “With the passing of time, I can note that rest is the best medication for the recovery of body and mind. I’ve reached the conclusion that in 2009, with its highs and lows, has been a year when I learned a lot.”
Reflecting on his 2009 season, Sastre said he takes special pleasure from his stage victories at the Giro, where he won up Monte Petrano and Vesuvio a few days later.
“The Giro was intense and I enjoyed the race a lot. To begin with, perhaps because my objective was only focused on winning, I didn’t know how to enjoy or judge my fourth place overall, which in the end became third with the disqualification of (Danilo) Di Luca,” Sastre said. “But later, after analyzing it with the passing of time, I’ve learned to value what it means to my career.”
“The two mountain stage victories, two of the most important stages in that Giro, gave me the opportunity to experiment a new role for me – to fight for stage victories, which until now, really wasn’t that interesting for me,” he said. “I’ve always focused on the GC, without thinking about stage victories.”
One bad day prevented him from reaching the podium outright (he was later awarded third with the disqualification of Danilo Di Luca), but the Giro experience was a good one, so much so, he’s already committed to racing the 2010 edition.