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Page last updated at 18:14 GMT, Saturday, 26 July 2008 19:14 UK

Sastre hails Team CSC team-mates

Franck Schleck and Carlos Sastre
Team CSC have been the strongest throughout the 2008 Tour

Carlos Sastre has heaped praise on his team-mates after taking a giant step towards winning the Tour de France.

The CSC rider is virtually assured of victory after an impressive time-trial in Saturday's penultimate stage helped him retain the leader's yellow jersey.

"This is the result of team work," said the Spaniard. "The Schleck brothers sacrificed their chances for me.

"They have given 100% for me. They helped me with my morale, they helped make sure my dream came true."

Spaniard Sastre, 33, went into Saturday's time-trial wearing yellow but with many predicting that time-trial specialist Cadel Evans would overturn his advantage over the 53 km course between Cerilly and St Amand Montrond.

I took it easy in the beginning of the season. I handled my season carefully to achieve my dream

Carlos Sastre

But Sastre produced a defiant ride while the fatigued-looking Australian failed to record a fast time, meaning the Spaniard conceded just 29 seconds to the Silence-Lotto rider.

With a healthy lead of one minute and five seconds overall over Australian Evans, only a major mishap could now prevent Sastre from winning the Tour on the last stage to Paris.

"I was calm, I was relaxed, I knew it was the chance of a lifetime. I think I deserved it," he said. "I took it easy in the beginning of the season.

"I knew I needed to be fit for the Tour and later, possibly, for the Vuelta (Tour of Spain); I handled my season carefully to achieve my dream."

Sastre had been picked as the CSC leader despite the presence in the team of two other contenders, the Schleck brothers, Frank and Andy.

"It was his Tour," said Andy Schleck, Sastre's best aide in the mountains who is set to win the white jersey as the best young rider in the 2008 Tour.

Frank Schleck fell from second to sixth overall after a disappointing time-trial but can be pleased with his invaluable contribution.

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Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis also indicated that a new deal would be in the offing for Sastre, whose contract is set to expire.

"I hope so - we will do everything for that to happen," he said.

"It is a great feeling. We have been strong in the mountains and we have shown some great tactics.

"Carlos has been strong the whole three weeks. He showed he was strong by attacking in the Alps."

Evans needed to overcome a time deficit of 94 seconds to Sastre but only trimmed 29 seconds off his rival's lead and trails him by 65 seconds before Sunday's processional final stage around Paris.

"Sastre's ride in the time-trial today for me was a real surprise," said the Australian, who looks destined to finish runner-up for the second year running.

Evans, a Silence-Lotto rider who was 23 seconds behind Tour winner Alberto Contador last year, said Sastre benefited from having a much stronger team.

"On the climbs, CSC were so strong. It comes down to them have two or three times the budget we do," Evans said.

"They can straightaway buy much better quality riders. Strength in numbers ... it was no surprise."

see also
Sastre set to win Tour de France
26 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Stage 20 as it happened
26 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Stage 19 as it happened
25 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Tour de France stage 18 photos
24 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Sastre takes over as Tour leader
23 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Thomas wants Nevado to be jailed
22 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Tour de France 2008 preview
02 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cycling on the BBC
11 Jul 08 |  Cycling


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