By Agence France Presse
Defending Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre lashed out Monday for being shown a “lack of respect” coming into this year’s race.
And the Spaniard, now almost out of contention for a second consecutive victory on the race, said he believes that “certain riders” are conspiring to make sure he does not win the Tour de France.
After the first of three days in the Alps Sastre’s yellow jersey hopes have faded after he slipped further down the general classification on Sunday’s summit finish to Verbier.
At the Swiss ski resort compatriot Alberto Contador, the 2007 champion, won the stage in style to take possession of the yellow jersey.
He now holds a lead of 1:37 over Astana teammate Lance Armstrong, who has already indicated he would abandon his personal ambitions and ride to help Contador win the race.
Sastre finished slightly more than a minute down on Contador, however the 34-year-old is now 11th overall at 3:52 adrift.
Although he hopes to regain some pride by winning the penultimate stage to Mont Ventoux on Saturday, the Spaniard was in an unforgiving mood on Monday’s rest day.
Having been vexed by the organizers’ decision not to allow him to wear his yellow jersey, as defending champion, on the first stage time trial Sastre has also been annoyed with his own national media.
He claims they ignored him leading up to the race and built up the Armstrong-Contador rivalry to such an extent that it has made the race “boring.”
“I think it’s disrespectful, as defending champion, to always be faced with questions about Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador,” said Sastre. “For months you’ve been creating a rivalry between Armstrong and Contador, and now that the race has become boring and there’s nothing more to write about you turn to me and expect me to do something … but I’m not a box of magic tricks.”
Sastre has persistently played down his chances of beating the likes of Contador, Armstrong and Luxembourger Andy Schleck, the race’s other main contender.
But the Spaniard, without naming names or being more specific, claimed his job is not being made easier.
“There are some riders who don’t want me to win this Tour,” added Sastre, who hinted he had been the victim of some dirty tricks. “As far as bonding with my team goes this has been my best Tour de France. But I haven’t enjoyed the way the race has been raced in the peloton.”
Ahead of two more days in the Alps, a 40km time trial around Annecy and the final difficulty, the 20th stage ride to Mont Ventoux, the yellow jersey battle, on paper, is far from over.
Contador leads Armstrong by 1:37 in the overall standings, with Briton Bradley Wiggins of Garmin in third at 1:46. German Andreas Klöden, also of Astana, is fourth at 2:17 while Schleck is fifth at 2:26.
But even Sastre, ironically, believes there will be little chance of anyone beating Contador and Armstrong.
“There are only two riders to beat in this race, all the rest are already out,” he said.
For the Spaniard, it appears next Sunday’s finish in Paris cannot come soon enough.
“I’m not here to fight against anyone (for the yellow jersey),” he said. “I’m here just to do my race. For me personally, winning the stage to Ventoux is my main aim right now.”