When attacking on the slopes of the iconic Alpe d?Huez in last year?s Tour de France, Carlos Sastre wrote himself a page in the history books not only as a lone-winner on the Alpe but also as the eventual winner of the race overall.
With team-mate Frank Schleck in the yellow jersey, Sastre grasped his opportunity and attacked, with the other contenders unwilling to bring the Spaniard back, anxious that it would play into Schleck?s hands.
Fame has the power to corrupt absolutely, but the Spaniard insists that he is the same person after his Tour de France win. Sastre talked to Cycling Weekly about his goals and his life as a Tour winner ahead of the 2009 season at his Cervélo training camp in Portugal.
Cycling Weekly: What would you say made you leave CSC and Bjarne Riis?
Carlos Sastre: Well, because in this life you have to take decisions that are good for you. I had an opportunity to build a team together with Cervélo; I liked the products involved in this team and that is the main reason.
CW: Was it a difficult relationship you had with Bjarne Riis?
CS: No, I don?t think it was a difficult relationship. Bjarne is special: I am special. We?ve always respected each other. In the last part, we had a different point of view and that?s all. I prefer to remember the good things like winning races and the things that he taught me and all of us [at CSC].
CW: What was the difference in opinion?
CS: Well everybody has different opinions. Everybody has a different point of view. You can see something black, but you can also see it as grey. That is a part of our life and of our society.
CW: How are you finding the team so far?
CS: I think that we have a really nice atmosphere, there is still a lot of work to do but everyone is working hard. Everybody is fit and ready for our goals. I think so far it?s been really nice.
CW: Do you think the riders that you have on the team are strong enough to help you defend your Tour de France title?
CS: We will see. I think I have a really nice team and I?m really happy with the riders that I?ve got.
CW: The Astana team is a very strong one this year. How do you think the Cervélo team will manage the threat from Astana at the Tour de France?
CS: We will make that decision later. They have a strong team and they can play their cards. I have my team and I can play my cards. I don?t spend my energy thinking about what can happen in six months? time. I will take things just step by step and I?m happy with the people who are involved in this team and with my team-mates. I?m confident in them and I think we will really try to be in the right mind for the Tour.
Above: Carlos Sastre at the presentation for the 2009 Tour de France with last year?s runner-up, Cadel Evans
CW: You said you?re thinking about riding the Giro d?Italia. How do you think Lance Armstrong will get on there?
CS: I don?t know, we will see. I do my job as I think and I will try to be ready together with my team-mates for the Giro d?Italia. I?ll just take it day by day. Of course, if I can arrive in a good condition, then I?ll fight for everything. I normally ride two Grand Tours in one year, the first goal is the Giro because it comes first. But of course, I?d like to recover well in preparation for the Tour de France.
CW: Do you think you are still the same person after your Tour de France win?
CS: I think so. Maybe things around me are different, but my life is the same. I still have my two kids and my wife, that?s the same. I live in the same house, I drive the same car. Nothing changes in my private life; I keep it as before and I?m happy with that.
CW: What did it mean to you to win at Alpe d?Huez?
CS: Winning at Alpe d?Huez is wonderful. It?s a really nice experience, you are a part of the Tour de France?s history, only for that reason. It?s a fantastic climb and for me it was really nice. If you can arrive at the finish line alone, it?s even more special. Why beat other riders in a sprint when you can arrive alone? The way that I did it, attacking from the bottom, not many riders can do that. It was a really nice moment for my memories.
CW: When you attacked at the bottom of the climb, did you expect that anyone else would go with you?
CS: I don?t know, I was just thinking about myself. I knew, and everybody in my team knew, that we had to attack right from the bottom. It was the main goal for us, because it was the only way for us to kill off the riders who aren?t pure climbers. I tried to attack twice and the second time I got away.
CW: When you attacked did you think you would put so much time into Cadel Evans?
CS: I was not thinking about anything other than myself. I was just trying the hardest I could do and each moment was motivating for me because I taking time. That was really important to me to have that advantage. Listening to my team radio, I was taking 45 seconds, 1:00, 1:15. Almost 15 seconds every time. Behind me, there were misunderstandings in the bunch; they attacked then they stopped. I knew I was making it as difficult as possible for them keeping up at a high speed at the front.
CW: Was Cadel Evans the biggest threat to you?
CS: Of course, because he was in front of me [on the general classification] and I had to take time back off him. He was the strongest rider for the time trial and I was thinking of him but also of Denis Menchov. They?re both normally stronger than me in time trials and so it was really important for me to gain time on them.
CW: When you took the yellow jersey did you think you could take it all the way to Paris?
CS: You never know, I was just thinking from day to day. I just think in the moment and I try to do things in my own way, it?s what I do.