Tour de France Stage 21: Sastre - Making One Attack Matter
Carlos Sastre spent three weeks being sheltered by his CSC-Saxo Bank colleagues before delivering the decisive blow on the heralded summit of L’Alpe d’Huez. It was a 13km effort that saw him ascend the steep slope leading to the ski station on his own, onward to victory and into the lead of the general classification. Before the 17th stage he was ranked fourth overall, 49 seconds behind his team-mate Frank Schleck; after it, his advantage was one minute 24 seconds over the next best rider. But it was his performance in the time trial when he finished 12th and minimized his losses to Cadel Evans that the victory was sealed. The Australian gained another seven seconds thanks to a split in the peloton in the final sprint – meaning that, for a second successive year, the Silence-Lotto recruit finished within a minute of a Spanish rider – but the elation of Sastre’s team was evident at the finish in Paris.
Not only did CSC-Saxo Bank win the yellow jersey, Andy Schleck claimed the white jersey as the best young rider and the squad won the team classification with a dominant display.
The 33-year-old is the seventh Spaniard to win the Tour de France and he celebrated his success with his children by his side on the podium in the center of the Champs-Elysees.
The final stage was won by Gert Steegmans who finally gave the Quickstep something to savor in the 95th edition of the Tour.
The Progress Report
The 21st stage of the 2008 Tour de France, at 143km journey from Etampes to Paris, started at 1.53pm. There were 145 riders at the sign on with no one retiring after the final time trial. The stage featured two climbs, the cote de Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse (at 48km) and the cote de Chateaufort (51.5km) and two intermediate sprints: one at the Haut-des-Champs Elysees on the second lap of the finishing circuit (99km), the next during fifth lap (118.5km).
As usual the opening stanza of the final stage was ridden at a tranquil pace. The average speed for the first hour was just 27.5km/h. Champagne was consumed by the riders and a festive spirit was the early theme of the final stage. The CSC-Saxo Bank team led the peloton onto the streets of Paris and the other riders respected the moment and refrained from attacking until the 92km mark when Auge (COF) was the first to launch. It lasted just 500m before he was caught. CSC insisted on controlling the peloton but couldn’t respond to every surge. Some of the aggressors were: Vogondy (AGR), Brard (COF), Barredo (QST).
At 107km Vogondy and Barredo gained a decent advantage: 12” over Arrieta (ALM) and 20” over the peloton at the 111km mark. They were caught at 117km.
Quickstep Leads Steegmans To A Stage Win
CSC retreated to the middle of the peloton in the final two laps and allowed the sprinters’ teams to take control. Gerard (FDJ) attacked with 13km to go and when he was caught team-mate Gilbert had a brief stint in the lead but was caught 10km from the finish. With three kilometers to go, the winner of the Super Combative prize Chavanel (COF) launched another attack but was caught soon afterwards. Millar (GAR) led the peloton under the ‘flamme rouge’ and then four Quickstep riders took control. They led into the final turn, with one rider ahead of their protected man, Gert Steegmans who burst into the lead with 250m to go. He held off a late challenge from Ciolek and earned his team its only victory in the 2008 Tour.
Sastre: The Seven Spanish Winner
Despite the control that CSC had over the peloton, Carlos Sastre slipped behind in the final sprint. He finished 62nd in the stage, losing 14”to the stage winner and seven seconds to Cadel Evans (SIL). This is the second successive year that the Australian has finished within a minute of a Spanish winner.