With the emergence of a new generation of potential champions, Carlos Sastre is well aware his chance to secure the Tour de France yellow jersey may be his last.
The 33-year-old Spaniard goes into the penultimate stage time trial on Saturday with a 1:34 lead on his main yellow jersey rival Cadel Evans of Australia.
Evans is a far more accomplished time triallist than Sastre. However, the Spaniard said he is ready to finish off the good work throughout the race of his CSC-Saxo Bank team.
"It's the chance of a lifetime for me. It will be a hard time trial but I will go out and try to defend this jersey," said Sastre following the 19th stage Friday won by Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis. "I've already rode over the course and I will do it again in the morning. Physically I feel great and I'm not sick so there's no reason for me to give anything less than my maximum."
As the race leader Sastre will start last and have the benefit of chasing after Evans, whose time splits are likely to be relayed to him via his radio earpiece from team boss Bjarne Riis in the team car. Sastre will also be able to glean snippets of information from the teammates who have preceded him, the most crucial being two-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland.
"I'm hoping to base my ride on the times of Fabian, who is the best in the world at this kind of event," added Sastre, who is aiming to be the third consecutive Spaniard after Oscar Pereiro (2006) and Alberto Contador (2007) to win the race.
"I've waited for this day all my life, but I'm relaxed. Throughout the whole Tour the team has given everything. Now it's up to me to finish the job."
CSC team boss Bjarne Riis (l) likes having Fabian Cancellara on the team
Cancellara re-signs with CSC-Saxo through 2011
Double world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland on Friday extended his contract with the CSC-Saxo Bank cycling team by another three years, until 2011.
Cancellara, who will begin as the favourite for the penultimate stage time trial of the Tour de France Saturday, has won some of cycling's biggest one-day races with the Danish team run by former Tour winner Bjarne Riis.
"It means a lot to me that my future is secure with Team CSC Saxo Bank," said Cancellara. "This is where I belong and where I can reach my potential in the best possible way. When I reflect on the way I've evolved since joining the team and the things I've been through and everything the team and Bjarne have done for me, I'm totally convinced that I can be even better yet."
The Dane said: "What Fabian has achieved since he joined us is very unique and we're extremely lucky to have someone like him, who can win the great Spring classics and is the best time trial rider in the world."
The 27-year-old Cancellara has 46 victories under his belt - nine of them in 2008 alone with Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-San Remo as the most prestigious. His other big victories are Paris-Roubaix 2006, the 2006 and 2007 world time trial crowns as well as three stage wins in Tour de France, where he has also worn the yellow jersey for nine days.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008