Sastre crowned Tour de France champion
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sastre crowned Tour de France champion

by Agence France-Presse at 2:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Spain's Carlos Sastre wrapped up his maiden Tour de France triumph here on Sunday following the final stage of the race into Paris.

Sastre, a 33-year-old climbing specialist who rides for the CSC team, became the eighth Spaniard to win the race's yellow jersey and the third consecutively after Oscar Pereiro (2006) and Alberto Contador (2007). "I've dreamt of this since I was a child," said an emotional Sastre, who was surrounded by his wife and two children, Claudia and Yeday. "I'm beyond words, to be here with my family is really special."

Silence-Lotto's Cadel Evans was runner-up for the second consecutive year, the Australian finishing 1min 05sec behind Sastre after failing to eradicate a 1min 34sec deficit to the Spaniard in the penultimate stage time trial.

A surprise third place went to Gerolsteiner's Bernhard Kohl of Austria, who stepped onto the podium in Paris wearing the polka dot jersey for the race's 'King of the Mountains'. "To find myself both on the podium and with the polka dot jersey is incredible," said Kohl, who secured his jersey before the final climb of the race. "When I realised I had a chance of finishing on the Tour podium I gave it everything I could."

Sastre's CSC team had cause for further celebration, having topped the teams' classification and seen Andy Schleck win the white jersey for the best placed rider aged 25 and under.

Considered a future yellow jersey contender, Schleck is keen to keep his feet on the ground. "I still have plenty of work to do," said the 23-year-old, a runner-up at last year's Giro d'Italia. "The white jersey wasn't my objective this year, working for the team was. But next year I want to come back with better form."

Schleck's older brother Frank - the Luxembourg champion - finished in sixth place overall having worn the yellow jersey for two days in the Alps.

Rabobank sprinter Oscar Freire meanwhile made history by becoming the first Spaniard to win the race's green jersey for the points classification.

Freire, who also won the 14th stage, topped the points classification ahead of Germany's former six-time winner Erik Zabel. Freire made sure of keeping the jersey with a third place finish in the sprint behind Gerald Ciolek and final stage winner Gert Steegmans of Belgium.

The only French 'winner' of anything resembling a jersey was Cofidis all-rounder Sylvain Chavanel, who was awarded the largely symbolic title of the race's most aggressive rider. Chavanel, 29, claimed his maiden stage win on the race on Friday, bringing the hosts' victory tally to three following stage wins by his teammate Samuel Dumoulin and Cyril Dessel of AG2R.

France, however, is still waiting for an heir to five-time champion Bernard Hinault, the last Frenchman to win the yellow jersey, in 1985.

Francaise des Jeux all-rounder Sandy Casar, who finished second in the stage won by Dessel, topped the standings for the home riders in 14th overall. "Overall I'm happy with my race, although I'm without a stage win," said Casar, who picked up his maiden stage win last year. "Finishing as France's top rider doesn't mean much when you've not won."

Sastre's victory is his first in a major three-week race. Previously, his best results were his two runner-up places in the Vuelta d'Espana.

The unassuming Spaniard took possession of the yellow jersey when he launced a daring solo attack at the foot of the race's final mountain climb, coming over the Alpe d'Huez finish line 2:15 ahead of Evans. His subsequent 1:34 overall lead on Evans proved decisive.

Sastre began the race as an outsider, but his consistency - thanks to the textbook support work of his strong CSC team - proved key.

On the penultimate stage time trial, he held his nerve - and produced the race of his life - to keep a faltering Evans in his wake.

Compatriot Alejandro Valverde, one of the big pre-race race favourites with Evans, dropped out of virtual contention on the 10th stage. On the second of three days in the Pyrenees, the pace of CSC proved too much for Valverde, who finished five minutes off the pace of stage winner Leonardo Piepoli. "I expected to do better at this Tour and would have liked to have been on the podium," said Valverde, who finished sixth overall last year having crashed out injured in his two previous participations. "But I'll be going away with good memories of my stage win and the yellow jersey, and I'll be back next year. "My worst moment came on the Tourmalet, but on a more positive note I've shown again that I can be consistent throughout the three weeks."
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