Carlos Sastre woke up on the wrong side of the tour.
In a rambling interview with the Spanish media, Sastre said he felt disrespected as the reigning tour champion. Normally one of the classiest and quietest riders in the peloton, Sastre had plenty to get off his chest.
He was fed up with being asked to add fuel to the supposed tension between Armstrong and Contador. He was frustrated with this years’ route and unhappy with the strategy employed by the teams. He also said the breakfast croissants have been consistently stale.
Sorting through the tangle of statements, the root of his discontent seemed to be that the tour was boring. Few places to attack and tactics that put the emphasis on control over aggression. “It’s a boring race, from outside and inside,” he said. “Maybe this is the Tour de France they [the organisers] want, and this is what you have now.” Setting aside the personal annoyances, he did have a point.
Subtract the hoopla of Lance Armstrong’s return after 3 1/2 years and the media-magnified tension between Armstrong and his teammate Alberto Contador and you have an under-whelming first two weeks. Not for the hardcore cycling fans but the general public tuning in to follow Lance. The casual fan isn’t up on tour history, rivalries or the many strategic subtleties. They want action and attacks, daring-do, bigger heroes, more obvious villians.
One criticism of the Lance tour wins was their methodical quality. The best rider with the best team controlling everything. Outcomes pre-ordained, a clinical approach that seemed to lack a certain joie de vivre. Johan Bruyneel didn’t invent that approach but he certainly perfected it. The French hated it. No one doubted Armstrong was the strongest; it was the method that annoyed them.
That is why the Tour De France wanted to explore stages without radios. They hoped to reward boldness and free the race from the computer calculations that pulled back every breakaway. For better or worse, the riders disagreed. Ask Carlos how he feels about radios.
The Spanish and Italian climbers want passion, spontaneity, bold attacks, the glory of risking everything and the fame of heroic failure. They would prefer to lose beautifully than win without style. But that’s not the way the modern tour is raced. Carlos Sastre isn’t happy about it.
(Special thanks to Elena Toboni for the photo. Here is her Flikr gallery.)