Spain's Sastre Wins Tour De France

Spain's Carlos Sastre has won the grueling three-week Tour de France. The final stage of the race is considered a formality. Sastre began the stage with the coveted yellow jersey and his victory was seen as a foregone conclusion.

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ROBERT SMITH, host:

From NPR News, this is Weekend Edition. I'm Robert Smith. The Tour De France finished today in Paris, and there wasn't a lot of suspense on this one. The winner's yellow jersey went to Spanish rider Carlos Sastre. That makes him the third Spaniard in a row to win the three-week race. Reporter Anita Elash is on the Champs Elysees and was there to see Sastre cross the finish line. Good morning.

ANITA ELASH: Hi, Robert.

SMITH: So everyone knows who is going to win the Tour De France at this point. Is it still an exciting moment when they cross the line?

ELASH: This is a very exciting stage of the race to watch. But I find it very strange because the finish is always a bit of an anti-climax. Everybody already knows who's won the tour. We've known for two days now. In fact, it was probably going to be Carlos Sastre, but nobody is really ever sure who won the stage of the day, so people are always a little confused.

SMITH: Well, it's been an exciting three weeks. There were a lot of different riders in contention at different points, and Carlos Sastre wasn't even the favorite to win when the race started. When did things really turn around for him?

ELASH: It was earlier this week. In fact, I think it was Cadel Evans from Australia who was the favorite. He came in second today. He was leading for a time, and then earlier this week, Sastre made a couple very strong attacks in the Alps. And he won the yellow jersey from Cadel Evans, and he's held onto it all week.

SMITH: Well, the cycling wasn't the only interesting thing during these last three weeks. As it seems to be every year, there was a controversy over doping. What happened?

ELASH: The anti-doping authorities made very strong efforts to control for doping, and I think that they've made a very strong effort to make sure that everybody knew that they were checking for doping. So at the beginning of the race, they had targeted about a dozen riders who they thought that there were anomalies in the blood tests they did in advance, and it turned out that there were three riders who were using the hormone ETO, that they were blood doping. So those three riders were dropped out of the race. There haven't been any other riders caught. That doesn't mean that anybody else is doping, but they haven't caught anybody else.

What's interesting to see, though, is the extent that they have gone to to catch riders that aren't clean. Just one example, earlier this week, the father of Frank and Andy Schleck, they are two brothers from Luxembourg, both of them have done rather well here. Their father was stopped by French customs agents. His car was searched, at gun point apparently, and they were looking for any paraphernalia or anything that could have been related to doping. And it was a very public event. Mr. Schlock felt that it was done almost as a publicity element.

SMITH: As we talk about this, we should probably make it clear that the winner of Tour De France, Carlos Sastre, has not be implicated in any of this.

ELASH: No, that's right, and in Spain, he's known as Mr. Clean. He says that he's very committed to the anti-doping effort. Although it's interesting because some of the papers this morning were sort of raising questions about Sastre. They weren't suggesting that he was doping, but they are questioning his association with others who have been involved in doping scandals in the past. So people were saying it's fine to say that you're Mr. Clean, but how can you say that when you're still associated with people who have been involved in these sorts of practices in the past?

SMITH: Reporter Anita Elash is on the Champs Elysees, where she just watched Spanish rider Carlos Sastre win the Tour De France. Thank you very much.

ELASH: Thanks, Robert.

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