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By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright AFP2003
Tyler Hamilton has invited Walter Godefroot to inspect X-rays from his fractured collarbone following the Telekom team manager’s claims that the injury had been blown out of proportion.
Hamilton, the 32-year-old CSC team leader, has been riding with what was diagnosed as a double fracture of his collarbone since the second day of the Tour de France – a feat which stunned many observers as Hamilton rode valiantly in the Alps and the Pyrénées.
Godefroot was recently quoted as saying that Hamilton’s injury was “nothing but a cheap American PR stunt,” a comment that was immediately raised during Hamilton’s post-stage press conference.
The American said all the Telekom manager had to do was come over to look at his X-rays to check their authenticity.
“Walter has the right to his own opinion,” said Hamilton after taking his first stage victory in seven Tours attempts. “It’s unfortunate he’s done that. I welcome him to come to the team hotel or the bus and we can show him the X-rays. For me it’s as clear as anything – there are two fractures.”
Hamilton, whose bike was adapted specially to try and ease his pain in the mountains after he came down in a massive crash which marred the first stage, said he was disappointed by Godefroot’s comment.
“It’s unfortunate, but everybody has the right to his own opinion,” Hamilton remarked at his post-win press conference on Wednesday. “It’s a bit disappointing because he’s basically calling me and my team liars, and I don’t like that… but, that’s life.”
Hamilton, who had been tipped for a top three finish on the Tour after great form saw him win the Liége-Bastogne-Liége one-day classic, struggled on the first part of Wednesday’s stage until his team rescued him and he went on a 140 km breakaway to cross the finish line alone.
Now, he is in sixth place overall – but judging by his reaction it seems there might be little chance of a repeat of those efforts.
“I’m exhausted. I gave it everything out there,” said Hamilton. “The tank is empty but that shows I put everything into it. Today was a full mountains stage. People thought it might not make big difference but Bjarne (Riis – CSC team manager) reminded us not to lose our focus. A lot of people are starting to think about (arriving in) Paris, and you can actually lose your focus by doing that.”
With a prestigious stage win now under his belt, Riis would not be unhappy if his team leader sat back from now until Sunday.
Hamilton, a former U.S. Postal rider who helped Lance Armstrong to three of his four victories so far, certainly seems to deserve the rest. “It’s still sore and I can’t sleep on my side,” Hamilton added referring to his injury. “I’m kind of getting sick of it. But it’s getting stronger. I can pull a little harder on the handle bars now. “This is my seventh Tour de France, and after just two weeks I can say it’s been my hardest,” he noted. “The first week was brutal – both on and off the bike I was suffering. Since then it’s just been one day at a time, and here I am. But without my team I wouldn’t be here. But no doubt, it’s been my most difficult race ever.”
“Today has really made up for everything. It’s beyond my wildest dreams. Under the circumstances, I’ve had a respectable Tour.
“If I didn’t have the injury I’m sure I could have been in a better position.”