Sastre ends 2009 with an analysis of season of highs and lows
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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sastre ends 2009 with an analysis of season of highs and lows

by Conal Andrews at 8:30 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Two stage wins in the Giro d’Italia suggested that Carlos Sastre was on track for a very strong defence of his Tour de France title but, as Denis Menchov also learned, a strong performance in Italy does not necessarily translate into a good showing in July.

The 34 year old Spaniard will shortly begin his second season with the Cervélo Test Team and, on this New Year’s Eve, has taken the chance to have one final look back at the year just passed.

Overall, he feels there were many positives from it, not least the successful debut of a new team, as well as some experiences that he can learn from.

The biggest performance highlight was undoubtedly the Italian Tour. “Racing the Giro was intense - I really enjoyed this race,” he said. “At the start (and perhaps because my goal was simply to aim for victory), I didn’t know how to enjoy or value my fourth position in the general classification, which later became third place given Di Luca’s disqualification.

“But afterwards, when I analysed it with the perspective that time always affords, I was able to value what this race meant for me. The two mountain stage victories, which were two very important stages in this Giro, gave me the opportunity to experience a new part of me: trying to fight for these stage victories that until now hadn’t seemed interesting to me.

“I had always been a lot more focused on the general classification without concentrating on stage victories. This has helped me to carry on building my knowledge and personal experiences, allowing me to know things about myself that I had forgotten in recent years.”

If that was the high point, the Tour was the toughest moment. But he learned from that too, and will use that knowledge to make changes for next year’s race.

“During the Tour, I experienced some of the worst moments of this season,” he admitted. “I started with enthusiasm and thinking that I was in good shape. I aspired to be amongst the best riders on the podium again, but it didn’t take me long to realise that something wasn’t right.

“I didn’t know what was happening, but I really didn’t feel in good shape over the last few days. There was a series of feelings and sensations that stopped me from being at the level that I wanted to be.”

In time, he realised what the problem was. Taking account of that gave him an explanation, and also a reason for believing that things will be better in 2010.

“I realised that riding top level in four big tours in only thirteen months, added to the tiredness of so many social activities that I was involved in after winning the Tour in the autumn of 2008, and all the energy taken up with creating the Cervélo team, had taken its toll on me.

“After the Tour all I could think about was resting with my family. Disappearing as far as I could from the public scene and recovering from so much built-up tiredness and tension. Over the months, I have come to realise that rest is the best medicine to recover your body and mind. And I have come to the conclusion that 2009, with its good moments and bad, has been a year that has taught me a lot.”

Apart from having time to rest after those four Grand Tours, Sastre will also not have to deal with the pressure of being Tour champion plus the stress of helping build a new team. He’s glad he had the experiences of this year, but doesn’t necessarily want to experience it again.

“The 2009 season has been a very enriching time for me in every sense,” he details. “My involvement in setting up the Cervélo Test Team made me feel enthusiastic once again about a brand new project. It was created with a different philosophy and I was able to contribute both my experience from so many years in the profession and my personal seal in creating a cycling team that was born with the slogan ‘enthusiasm, respect and sacrifice’.”

“As can often happen, things did not always turn out as I had imagined and I have to admit that the physical and mental energy taken up in setting up the team became apparent at certain moments of the season. I sometimes felt a tiredness that was often more mental than it was physical.

“But as a general overview, I am satisfied with what I was able to contribute and what I have received from this great experience.”

Sastre is yet to decide what Grand Tours he will do in 2010. The Giro is a certainty; he’ll later decide if he will ride the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España. He knows that it will be difficult to win the Tour again, given the strength of some of the other riders, but may well want another crack at the biggest race in cycling. On the other hand, he’s never won the Vuelta and the 2010 route appeals to him.

Time will tell but, for now, he’ll celebrate the New Year and visualise a successful season ahead.


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