Spain’s Carlos Sastre is on the way to complete three Grand Tours, 10,500 kilometres, this season. He began the final leg of his journey this weekend at the Vuelta a España in Sevilla, Spain.

“The normal things do not motivate me,” Sastre told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I am a bit masochist.”

The first and last time Sastre completed the masochist journey was in 2006. Then he helped CSC team-mate Ivan Basso win the Giro d’Italia, finished third at the Tour de France and fourth at the Vuelta a España.

He explained that the last time he did the triple Grand Tour ride he promised himself he would never do it again. However, this year he needed to ride the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España with Cervélo TestTeam to guarantee its entry into the race.

The Vuelta a España will be Sastre’s last Grand Tour with Cervélo TestTeam. He announced two weeks ago that he will join Mauro Gianetti re-vamped Footon team next year. Besides Sastre, Gianetti brought in triple Vuelta a España winner, Russian Denis Menchov and new sponsor Geox footwear.

Sastre backs Menchov, who finished third in last months Tour de France, to win this year’s Vuelta a España.

“My favourite is Menchov, he is the only one here who has already won this race. If he is motivated he can do well,” said Sastre.

“However, I like this course and I have a very good chance to win. The stage to Peña Cabarga [stage 14] and Cotobello [16] are the hardest and so they suit me the best. Also the stage to Bola del Mundo [20], which has gradients similar to L’Angliru.”

Besides Menchov and Sastre, the favourites for the overall include Andy and Fränk Schleck of team Saxo Bank and team Liquigas’ Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger, and team Sky’s Thomas Löfkvist.

“Fränk has never finished on the podium of a Grand Tour, and so he will want to go for it. Andy said that he is here to help. Nibali, however, could be the surprise.”

Some surprises in the overall classification may come as early as this afternoon when the riders tackle the 157.3 kilometres to Málaga. The riders will face their first high mountain of the Vuelta a España, the Puerto del León climb with 37 kilometres to race. The Puerto del León is 15.8 kilometres long and with a average gradient of 5.44 per cent. Also, the stage ends with an 1,800-metre ramp to the finish line – a tough day for Brit Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) to hold to his scant 12-second lead.

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