Sastre set to win Tour title as Evans falters
Carlos Sastre almost certainly won the 2008 Tour de France on Saturday when his most feared opponent, Australia's Cadel Evans, was unable to make up enough time on the Spaniard in the race's next-to-last stage, dpa reported.
The stage was won by Germany's Stefan Schumacher, who covered the winding, hilly individual time trial over 53 kilometres from Cerilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond in 1 hour 3 minutes 50 seconds, an average speed of 50.77 kph.
Sastre came into the stage with a lead of 1 minute 34 seconds over Evans and lost only 29 seconds to the 31-year-old Australian, who finished a disappointing seventh, 2:05 behind the winner.
Sastre, 33, will go into Sunday's final stage - traditionally a ceremonial ride to honour the winners on the Champs Elysees in Paris - with a lead of 1:05 over Evans.
Austria's Bernhard Kohl, already assured of the King of the Mountain title, turned in the most surprising performance, finishing ninth on the day, and now stands third, 1:20 behind Sastre.
Sastre's Team CSC teammate Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland came in second in the stage, 21 seconds behind Schumacher, with Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg finishing third, 1:01 adrift.
Sastre is set to be the third Spaniard in a row to win the Tour, following Oscar Pereiro in 2006 and Alberto Contador in 2007.
A delighted Sastre told French television that the secret to his performance was that he did not let the tension affect him.
"I was calm. I knew this was the occasion of my life. It was the dream of my life, and now it is reality," Sastre said.
He gave much of the credit for the imminent championship to his Team CSC teammates. "They sacrificed themselves, and their own goals, for me," he said. "They helped me 100 per cent. Without a doubt, this success belongs to the whole team."
Especially in the mountain stages, Team CSC always forced the tempo, in the plains and up the climbs. And if Sastre was fresher than Evans on Saturday, it may have been because he always had a teammate to lead him while Evans appeared to be working alone.
For the Australian, it was deja vu all over again. Already in 2007, he came into the Tour's next-to-last stage, also a time trial, with time to make up on a Spanish rider, and he came up 23 seconds short of catching Contador.
Saturday was also disappointing for Sastre's teammate Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, who stood second at the beginning of the stage but dropped to sixth, 4:28 minutes behind Sastre.