No surprise as Spain’s Sastre eases to Tour triumph

CARLOS SASTRE steered clear of trouble on the 21st and final stage of the Tour de France to seal overall victory and continue Spain’s recent dominance of the world’s greatest cycling race.

Quick Step’s Gert Steegmans won the 143-kilometre stage from Etampes to Paris in a sprint on the Champs-Elysees but the day was all about Spain’s Sastre, who rides for the dominant Team CSC.

The Madrid-born 33-year-old took a lead of 65 seconds over nearest challenger Cadel Evans into Sunday following the make-or-break time trial a day earlier.

And with the final stage little more than a ceremonial trek into the heart of the French capital, Sastre comfortably maintained his advantage, losing just seven seconds to Evans.

He became the third consecutive Spanish winner of the event, following the victories of Oscar Pereiro in 2006 and Alberto Contador in 2007.

Evans, the Australian who rides for Silence-Lotto, ended runner-up for the second Tour in succession while Gerolsteiner’s Bernhard Kohl, of Austria, finished third.

Steegmans chose the perfect moment to strike for home, holding off the threat of a number of challengers to prevail, finishing in a time of three hours, 51 minutes and 38 seconds. Colombia’s Gerald Ciolek finished second and Oscar Freire came third, with Sastre crossing the line snugly in the bosom of the peloton, 14 seconds back.

Rabobank’s Freire ended the Tour with the green jersey for most sprint points while Kohl was crowned King of the Mountains, retaining the polka-dot jersey.

Andy Schleck, who — along with his brother Frank — has been one of the driving forces behind Team CSC’s supremacy of the Tour over the past three weeks, finished best young rider.

Sastre was third in the 2006 Tour and fourth a year later but having managed to preserve his lead following Saturday’s crucial time trial, yesterday was always going to end successfully for him.

As is the Tour’s etiquette, attacks are frowned upon in the last stage and any attempts at a breakaway by a rival are easy to quell, such is the flat journey.

As a result, only a crash or an injury would have prevented Sastre from completing his win and the finish was something of a letdown, Steegmans tailing a team-mate before striking for home under little pressure.

Arms aloft, he was able to celebrate early, it was Steegmans’ second stage victory of the Tour.

Moments later, Sastre rolled in calmly and was immediately mobbed by his team-mates before greeting his family.

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