His victory at the 2008 Tour de France must now seem like a very distant memory. Carlos Sastre has had a singularly unspectacular Tour this year, and was nowhere to be seen on Saturday’s stage to Mont Ventoux.

Many had tipped Sastre for an attack on the Ventoux, the gradual climb at the end of the stage seemingly playing to the Spaniard’s climbing ability. It could have been the big chance for the man with the number 1 to finally make a mark on the 2009 Tour.

Instead, as the race happened kilometres in front of him, Sastre vanished, crossing the summit of Mont Ventoux in a lowly 71st place. Nine minutes had elapsed since Andy Schleck and race leader Carlos Sastre had crossed the same line.

Sastre missed the decisive split in the bunch at the base of Ventoux, and could only watch the leaders vanish up the road.

As a result, Sastre tumbled further down the overall classification, now sitting at 17th some 26 minutes and 21 seconds behind Contador. A poor result for a defending champion, and a rider who was third (discounting Di Luca’s result) in the Giro d’Italia in May.

“He’s experienced enough to know what he can do,” Cervelo directeur sportif Jean-Paul Van Poppel said about Sastre’s performance. “He’s human, one year is not the other year. For sure, next year, he will come back and try to be even better.”

“Maybe the course wasn’t great for him, but there is no excuse. He did the maximum to prepare for himself, there’s no reason why. You just have to look ahead.”

If there was any consolation for Sastre it’s that Giro winner Denis Menchov fared even worse. He finished 98th on Ventoux, and sits in 51st place in the Tour’s overall classification. Last year he was fourth.