By Andrew Hood
Last year’s runner-up Andy Schleck and Spanish climber Carlos Sastre will both skip this month’s Giro d’Italia in favor of a run at the Tour de France podium.
The two Team CSC stars have opted to put everything on the Tour and will leave the Giro to other riders on the squad.
While Schleck, 22, had already decided in favor of the Tour even before his dramatic run through Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, Sastre ended speculation over the weekend that he might start the Giro.
“The Giro is just too hard and I had to make a decision. It only has five stages designed for the sprinters, so the rest of the days you have to be mentally prepared to be at the front. I don’t want to go to a grand tour just to roll through it,” Sastre said. “I will prepare for the Tour and then the Vuelta with the intention of doing something important.”
Sastre, 33, was mulling a Giro appearance to build his strength ahead of the Tour, where he hopes to aim for a spot among the top three.
Sastre’s durability is legendary. He started and finished five grand tours in a row (from the 2005 Tour through the 2006 Vuelta).
After weighing up the toughness of this year’s Giro course coupled with the fact that he wants to challenge for the win in the Vuelta a España in September, however, he decided racing the Giro would simply be too demanding.
Instead, Sastre will race the Volta a Catalunya in May and the Dauphiné Libéré in June as a lead-up to the Tour.
“I go to this year’s Tour with the intention of doing something big, to be on the podium or even win,” Sastre told VeloNews. “The most important is to be in the best possible condition for the Tour. Now it’s up to me to deliver.”
Schleck, meanwhile, announced earlier this season that he was skipping the Giro to make his Tour debut.
Schleck, who turns 23 in June, said he’s not expecting to storm through the Tour in the same manner that he did in last year’s Giro, when he rode consistently for three weeks to finish second overall behind winner Danilo Di Luca.
“I think I can go far in the mountains at the Tour, but everyone says the Tour is not the Giro,” Schleck said. “I have no pressure at this year’s Tour. Our captain is Carlos but we’ll have Frank (Schleck) there as well and we’ll see how I can do. Hopefully I will have the same form I did in last year’s Giro. I’m looking forward to racing, but once it begins, it’s 30 days of suffering.”
Schleck is scheduled to start the Tour of Luxembourg and the Tour de Suisse ahead of his much-anticipated Tour debut.
For the Giro, Team CSC is expected to bring Chris Anker Sørensen, a Danish climbing sensation to try his luck against the Italians.