Tour de France: Sastre calm in face of near-impossible task
Saturday 26 July 2008
Pedal stroke by pedal stroke, the final, decisive act of this year's dramatic battle for the Tour de France will unfold in all its glory today, when Spaniard Carlos Sastre will attempt the near impossible and try to defend his yellow jersey against Australian Cadel Evans.
Yesterday's stage, won by Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel, served as a prelude of no consequence whatsoever for Saturday's showdown – although the Cofidis pro's victory did allow the host nation to celebrate its third triumph of the 2008 Tour.
Chavanel's victory – outsprinting his inexperienced compatriot Jeremy Roy – was child's play in comparison to Sastre's task in today's time trial between Cerilly and Saint-Amand- Montrond.
A skilled climber, as he showed with Wednesday's devastating win on Alpe D'Huez, Sastre is more than limited against the clock, and today those limitations may become painfully clear on a 53-kilometre course weaving its way through the Forêt de Tronçais, the largest oak forest in western Europe.
On paper Sastre's advantage of 94 seconds will almost certainly prove insufficient against a skilled time trialist like Evans. But – and it is a big but – Sastre has three possible trump cards in his hand, the most important being that after three weeks of racing, the time trial specialists are as tired as the rest of the field.
The second is that the 33-year-old will be the last rider to start, meaning that he will be constantly informed of Evans' intermediate times. Given his only objective is to limit the gaps, Sastre can adapt his efforts accordingly.
Thirdly the Spaniard will start the time trial with the yellow jersey on his shoulders – the Tour, then, is his to lose.
Reserved as ever, on Friday evening Sastre sounded upbeat but by no means overconfident. "I'm calm and relaxed. I'm not sick and I'm not injured. I'll give it 100 per cent. I will try, above all, to ride the time trial of my life. How am I going to get through it? By suffering a lot."
For Evans, the situation is oddly familiar: in last year's Tour, he had to attempt to catch another Spaniard Alberto Contador – also in yellow – in the final time trial. He failed, but Contador's final victory margin of just 23sec was indicative of how close the Australian ran his rival.
The scenario is not new to the race. This is the 12th time in post-war Tours that cycling's showcase event has been decided in the final time trial. The most spectacular reversal of fortunes came in 1989, when Greg LeMond managed to beat Frenchman Laurent Fignon by just eight seconds in a time trial on the Champs Elysées. Evans victory may well be even closer – whatever the result, the final time trial will provide a resounding conclusion to one of the hardest-fought Tours in recent years.
Alasdair Fotheringham writes for www.cyclingweekly.co.uk
Latest in Sport
QPR 1 Arsenal 2: Arsene Wenger praises 'mental strength' of strikers Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud in win over QPR
Newcastle 0 Manchester United 1: Louis van Gaal describes performance as 'maybe our best match of the season'
Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid superstar 'sends his hair stylist to look after his waxwork once a month'
Newcastle vs Manchester United match report: Ashley Young scores late winner as Angel Di Maria fails to shine yet again
Brooklyn Beckham to be released: Why Arsenal could regret letting David Beckham's son depart
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 4 Penis size: Study revealing 'what's normal' sends international media into meltdown
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...
£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...