Cervelo Test Team was the best team to barely ever happen. After CSC dumped Cervelo as bike sponsor, the Canadian bike company started to put together one a solid team for all types of races. Thor Hushovd, the God of Thunder, was the Classics genius who paired with cobbles-specialist Roger Hammond to make an irrestistable 1-2 for the pave. Heinrich Hausler, too, was a sprinter for all occasions, added for speed and depth. But the man the team was built around, even built for, was Carlos Sastre.
Sastre won the 2008 Tour de France for CSC after Frank Schleck sacrificed himself on Alpe d’Huez. It was the CSC director sportif, Bijarne Riis, who laid it out to Schleck and Sastre, to the effect of: One of you has to lose the Tour for the other one to win it. Frank sat on Cadel Evans’ wheel on for all 21 hairpins up d’Huez. Sastre attacked early, got time and eventually won Stage 17 with enough of a lead to hold on in the final time trial over a surging Evans.
Sastra remains a Quixotic character in cycling lore. For all of his success, and maybe in spite of it, Sastre remained quiet, inconsistent and almost apologetic. Sastre placed in the top ten of no less than fifteen Grand Tours over the course of his career, but won only the 2008 Tour. He finished on the podium in five Grand Tours, making the oft-second place stories of Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck seem much less heart breaking.
It was around the almost philosophic Sastre that a collection of young, talented riders were assembled. Ted King, Heinrich Haussler, Thor Hushovd, Ignatas Konovalovas, Daniel Lloyd and Volodymir Gustov, among others, trained and learned from Sastre, who would often talk about life instead of cycling with the youngsters. Sastre saw himself as an aged, depreciating hero still capable of battling, if not winning. In his last Tour with the Cervelo set-up, Sastre used his teammates to launch a forlorn, 50km+ attack that ended up losing him time overall, eventually finishing 16th, his worst overall position in three years. Afterwards, Sastre seemed to view the Cervelo experience as a humbling, perspective-gaining project. It was the last time Sastre would be considered a real GC threat.
Cervelo put a man in the top ten of each Classics race of its very first season. The squad gained more acknowledgment, however, for its stylish, all-black kit. No one has since matched TestTeam for style, and the black Cervelo kits are staples for thousands of amateur cyclists to nab up on the Internet. Cervelo would move on to pair with Johnathan Vaughters’ Garmin outfit, but the myth of the TestTeam lives on. Riders who used to wear the black have moved to other teams, but many fans still see them as riders from a very unique, special group that, at least for a year or two, did it right.
(Photos from Castelli.com, 2010 Tour de France)