Carlos Sastre was expected to lose some of his advantage to Cadel Evans during the final time trial of the 2008 Tour de France. He had a lead of 1â34â after 19 stages and although he did lose 29 seconds in the race from Cerilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond, he didnât lose his grip on the overall lead. The CSC team leader will become the seventh Spaniard to win the Tour de France after finishing the 53km 20th stage in 12th place. The stage was won by the same man who claimed the yellow jersey after victory in the Cholet time trial in the first week of the 95th Tour, and while Schumacher deserves all the plaudits he received, the real star of the stage was Carlos Sastre who exceeded the expectation of many to retain his yellow jersey.
The Progress Report
The 20th stage of the 2008 Tour de France began at 11.18am with the riders starting the 53km time trial from Cerilly to St-Amand-Montrond at two-minute intervals. Only the final 20 riders would be separated by three minutes. Rain fell before the stage began but by the time Bernhard Eisel departed, it had stopped and the roads started to dry up. The temperature at the start was 22 degrees Celsius and a light breeze of about 10km/h was blowing from the northwest. There were 145 riders still in the race, with three eliminated after finishing outside the time limit in the 19th stage.
Bernhard Eisel (COL) was the first to start the stage, with riders departing in reverse order of their place in the general classification. He was 42â behind Vansevenant (SIL) after 19 stages but the Belgian finished 1â25â behind Eisel to reclaim his place as the âLanterne Rougeâ of the 95th Tour de France: Vansevenant is now destined to become the first rider in history to finish in last place in three Tours de France (2006, 2007 and 2008).
Vansevenantâs team-mate, Leif Hoste (SIL) posted the fastest times at each intermediate check. The Belgian time trial champion is used by his team to get a gauge of the course and offer advice to his leader Cadel Evans. Hostes times were: 22â28â at 18km, 45â16â at 36km, 1h01â33â at 47.5km and 1h07â40â at the finish.
Danny Pate (TSL) then repeated the antics of Hoste: first at every check before finishing 56â ahead of the Belgian. Cancellara then stormed around the course, becoming the first rider to reach the second check at an average speed in excess of 50km/h. He was 1â03â better than Millar at the 36km mark. By the finish, heâd increased his advantage to 1â16â, setting an average speed of 49.5km/h.
The winner of the fourth stage was the first to eclipse the time of Cancellara; Schumacher beat the world champion by 21â after 53km. No one could get near the time set by the German who also won the first time trial of the 2008 Tour de France. His average speed for the stage was 49.817km/h. Cadel Evans finished the stage in seventh place and moved up to second overall. His deficit is 1â05â in the general classification after an impressive ride by the winner of the stage to LâAlpe dâHuez, Carlos Sastre. The Spaniard was 12th in the stage 2â34â behind Schumacher and 29â behind Evans. The leader of the CSC-Saxo Bank team will wear the yellow jersey for the final stage of the 95th Tour de France and hold a lead of 1â05â over the leader of the Silence-Lotto squad.
Before this year, the Gerolsteiner team had won just one stage of the Tour de France. Although there is still no sponsor for the 2009 season, the manager of the squad Hans-Michael Holczer explained that there is every reason to be proud of what was accomplished in these past three weeks.
âWe should have a new sponsor now but the situation remains unchanged. We have some talks and maybe weâll have a decision soon but at the moment things donât look too good for the future of the team.
âI would never have expected to see Bernhard [Kohl] finish the Tour as the third best rider. I was calculating that heâd probably end in fifth or sixth place but I never believed that he would be fourthâŠ so third place is a huge surprise for me. At the same time I never considered that Stefan Schumacher could win this time trial.
âAfter the last four days, when heâs been so undiplomatic: he was just attacking, attacking and attacking. Everybody was saying that he would definitely not be able to be in the first five in the time trial. He never monitors his power he just went for it. He goes fast and thatâs all he thinks about.
âThe radio didnât work but we saw that the first check was very good and we knew he had some potential. In the middle he was losing a little bit of force which is something I think he did on purpose and in the end he accelerated to the maximum and thatâs how he won.
âBernhard is in a terrible state after the stage today. Weâre looking for a doctor because weâre a little bit concerned at the moment. He was at the point where he is really at the maximum degree of exhaustion.â
Winning the Tour de France requires a combination of many elements and Carlos Sastre found the formula this year as part of the dominant CSC-Saxo Bank squad. After his 12th place finish in the penultimate stage he is virtually assured of success in the 95th edition and he credits three factors for his success: his mentality, the support of his colleages and his physical conditions.
âWinning the Tour de France is a dream come true. Above all, itâs a special day for the whole CSC-Saxo Bank team. It was impossible to do this without them. It is extremely motivating to know that all the riders were ready to be at my service. I suffered a lot in this time trial because it was essential that I rode âa blocâ (flat out). I went a little bit slower in the final five kilometers.
âUltimately, I grateful because I knew that I was going to keep the yellow jersey. It was very difficult to retain it but still I managed to do it. Now Iâm happy because I have a guarantee that it will all end well tomorrow.
âIâve prepared better than ever for this race. I arrived at the Tour in the best shape of my career and what has happened is really a dream for every professional. Iâm pleased to be a part of the history of the sport with this victory. When I started today I wanted to do a good time trial but if I was able to defend my yellow jersey today it was because of three factors: my mind, my team, my form.
âAt this very moment, I think of Jose Maria Jimenez (his brother-in-law and an ex-professional rider who died in 2003) who is the person who I miss the most.â
He was a surprise winner of the first time trial and Stefan Schumacher proved it was no fluke by winning again on the eve of the final stage of the 2008 Tour de France. Itâs another coup for the Gerolsteiner team that is still without a sponsor for next season but at least they can celebrate two stage wins, as well as the King of the Mountains crown and third place overall for Bernhard Kohl.
âIn the final, after such a long time trial, you find yourself being cross-eyed from the effort. I didnât know anything about my time when I hit the finish line so I had to ask, âWhich place?â And I heard first and as Iâd already beaten the time of [Fabian] Cancellara I knew I had a good chance to win.
âI never even thought I was going to win. It wasnât even in my mind. I only tried to find my rhythm and give it 100 percent. After 25 kilometers my radio was no longer working â I donât know what happened, perhaps I hit the wrong button but I didnât hear anything â but I had the time at the second check and I still wasnât sure if it was enough to win the stage.
âI was sure that the last climb on the course would decide the winner. And I was feeling heavy after 45 kilometers and to arrive at the last climb which is more than one kilometer long like that was hard but I had the power to go over the top. In the last 10 kilometers I had a good ride and that was very important for me.
âI donât think anybody outside of the team thought that we could do a Tour like this so itâs unreal. Iâve been talking a lot with Bernhard [Kohl] and weâre always saying, âHey, this isnât just any bike race. Itâs the Tour!â And I cannot believe what weâve done. He said that heâd be happy with fifth and now heâs third and the King of the MountainsâŠ so itâs been an incredible adventure.â
Carlos Sastre may have lost 2’34" to the stage winner today but the CSC team has finally claimed the yellow jersey. The Spaniard will win the Tour de France by 1’05" over last year’s runner-up Cadel Evans.
Carlos Sastre has finished the 20th stage with a raised finger to signal "number-one". He has finished 29 behind Cadel Evans and the Spaniard will win the Tour de France baring disaster tomorrow.
Evans has finished 15" ahead of Kohl in the 20th stage. It will put the Australian into second place overall while the Austrian will remain third overall as well as win the King of the Mountains crown.
Sastre has passed the 7km to go sign and is about to catch his three-minute man, Frank Schleck.
Evans has the seventh fastest time in the stage. He is going to end the Tour de France in second place for the second successive year.