Carlos Sastre to me seems like one of the most under rated grand tour riders in recent times. He consitently finished in the top 10 in a grand Tour on 15 occasions, won 5 grand tour stages, and was also one of the only top riders riding right through the Armstrong era to come out without a doping scandal. He was always low key, and would attack when it mattered and wouldnt waste energy on useless attacks. His most memorable moment for me, was his Alpe Dhuez victory.
The year was 2008, and it was stage 17 of the tour. It was the queen stage as well, with the finish coming at Alpe Dhuez, known as one of the hardest climbs in the world with a total of 21 hairpins over 13.8 km. The current leader of the tour was Frank Schleck, however they had Andy Schleck and Carlos Sastre in the same team as well, all of whom were close to the top of the General Classification. Bjarne Riis was the team director - he didnt care if his team won the Tour with Andy, Frank or Carlos. He just wanted the win.
Those who have ridden the famous Alpe will tell you, the first part is the hardest. There were 2 breakaway riders up the road, Jerome Pineau and Peter Velits and Carlos wasted no time in launching an attack. Menchov jumped straight onto Carlos' wheel and begun to open a gap. At this point, Cadel Evans went to the front to try and minimise the gap Sastre had quickly created. It was a smart move from Bjarne Riis. Cadel had to chase Carlos to keep himself in the race, meaning the other 2 contenders - Frank and Andy, could sit back for an easy ride. The duo of Popovych and Evans slowly reigned in Carlos and Denis, but once he was caught Carlos went again.
This attack seemed to hit them harder though, you could see Sastre's face wince with pain as he accelerated away again, this time with no one in his slipstream. He reeled in Jerome Pineau ans zoomed passed him, leaving no chance to stay on his wheel. Menchov was paying for his earlier acceleration as he was now starting to drop off the back of the leading group. Various attacks ensued from the lead group from the likes of Vladimr Efmikn and Brernhard Kohl, each of which were covered by the CSC brotherly duo of Frank and Andy just sitting along for the ride. Unfortunately for the chasers though, every attack they were putting in was taking the impetus out of the chase, helping Sastre steadilly extend his lead. At 10km to go, Sastre had a lead of nearly 30 seconds.
At the 8km to go mark, he had doubled this now to a minutes advantage with his high steady pace being the golden ticket today, also making him the virtual leader of the day (having started in 4th, 49seconds behind). Consistent attacks continued, and Sastre extended it to nearly 1 minute 30 by the 6km to go mark and it was near certain for him to win the stage now, bar tragedy as again at 5km to go it was touching a huge 2 minute advantage. Cadel sensed his Tour was slipping away from him so made his way to the front of the group again and begun his momentus effort to peg back Sastre, however the best he could do was keep him at the same distance rather than reduce his margin. at 3km to go his gap was at 2 Minutes 20. Sastre would be the new yellow jersey holder at the end of the day if he continued this ride for the remaining couple of kilometres.
The tour is well known for being the hardest race in the world, it always has the best riders there, Carlos Sastre showed his class on the most important stage, as he crossed the line 2 minutes ahead of second place, and 2minutes 11 ahead of the chasing pack, an absolute destruction and embarrassment of all of his opponents out on 2 wheels that day. His sheer determination and consistency paid off with the biggest win of his career.
There is a saying "The Tour isn't won in a day, but it can be lost in one" - Whilst I agree with this to a certain extent, I think Carlos today came as close to proving that theory wrong as anyone ever has. It is clearly important to finish towards the front of the pack on the high mountain passes and avoid any big losses, a solo victory of 2 minutes by a GC contender is rarely seen and as such deserved a spot on my favourite moments. Carlos went on (much to the disappointment of many Aussies) to win the 2008 Tour, ahead of none other than Cadel Evans.
As always, watch the video below! this one is quite long though as its the whole climb. Enjoy!