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2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre now races for Cervelo. LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
The Cervelo Test team declared their intention to help defending champion Carlos Sastre win the Tour de France for the second consecutive year on Friday.
But the Tour debutants, who have also built their team around Thor Hushovd's bid for the race's green jersey, admit it would not be catastrophic if Sastre came off second best to arguably better placed rivals.
"We're not desperate to win the Tour de France this year," said Gerard Vroomen, the owner of the Cervelo bike brand whose dream of building a team for the world's biggest bike race has finally come to fruition. "If Carlos rides a Tour that he's completely happy with then that's okay for us. For us, just being here the Tour is already a success.
"The success of our team is not only dependent on winning races."
"I feel confidence in myself and my teammates."
Sastre won the race last year thanks mainly to the collective efforts of former team CSC, now named Saxo Bank, who were focused almost exclusively on winning the yellow jersey.
Saxo Bank, and their team leader Andy Schleck, will be among Sastre's principal rivals although he could face the biggest challenge from the Astana team of 2007 champion Alberto Contador and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong.
Despite having his team built for two goals - the yellow jersey and the green jersey for the points competition - Sastre is relaxed, happy not to be considered an outright favourite but confident he can achieve his objectives.
"For me, nothing's changed since I won the Tour last year. I will start with the number one jersey but I'm still the same rider, the same person and I still have the same goals," said Sastre.
Sastre is a discreet competitor who is not known for his explosive attacks, although the 34-year-old Spaniard has also shown glimpses of the contrary.
His solo attack and eventual victory on Alpe d'Huez last year was a huge step towards him winning the race.
And he comes into this Tour having won two mountains stages on the Tour of Italy, where he finished fourth overall.
Asked if he felt concerned by not being considered an aggressive rider, the Spaniard added: "I know I'm not known for being aggressive. But I like being a dark horse, and I like to strike while the iron is hot."
As for his rivals Sastre is old enough, and wise enough, to know they will all have to endure the same hardships over three tough weeks of racing which could finally be decided by the penultimate stage climb to the Mont Ventoux.
"I'm a climber, so it's better for me to have a climb at the end than a long time trial," he said. "I have respect for all my rivals. But the Tour is nearly 3,500km long, it's windy, cold, hot, we're in the mountains - it's not easy for anyone.
"I feel confidence in myself and my teammates. But it's also up to me to make the right decisions, be in the right places at the right times and make the most of the opportunities that come to me."
© 2009 AFP & BikeRadar
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