MADRID (Reuters) - Spaniard Carlos Sastre, a surprise Tour de France champion in 2008, announced his retirement on Thursday at the age of 36.
The GEOX-TMC rider told a news conference at a Madrid hotel he had made the decision last year.
“The time has come to bring this cycle to a close,” he said. “Next year I will start a new phase, although I do not yet know what I will do.”
Sastre, who grabbed podium finishes in all the grand Tours, was made to wait before succeeding at the highest level.
Serving as a domestique in Manolo Saiz’s ONCE team, he won the mountain classification in the 2000 Vuelta but it seemed for a long period that his time would never come.
However, he built his 2008 Tour triumph on the ascent of the Alpe d’Huez, also benefiting from then CSC manager Bjarne Riis’s decision to give him the leadership of the team ahead of the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, while Alberto Contador had not been invited to race because of his team’s doping record.
Sastre, who subsequently never did better than finishing third overall on the 2009 Giro d’Italia, collected a total of six podium finishes on the Giro, Tour and Vuelta.
A steady but unspectacular rider, Sastre came to prominence on the grueling climb to l’Alpe d’Huez in 2008, attacking the field from the bottom of the ascent to leave Australian Cadel Evans trailing by 2 minutes 15 seconds.
He then held off Evans in the final time trial to win the Tour, dubbed a “joke” by seven-times champion Lance Armstrong, who later apologized to the Spaniard.
Sastre fought his last battle in this year’s Vuelta, finishing a distant 20th as Geox team mate Juan Jose Cobo triumphed.
“Being alongside the winner of the Vuelta and in the winning team was the best conclusion to my career,” he said.
Reporting by Iain Rogers and Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris