By Justin Davis, Copyright Agence France Presse 2004
Tyler Hamilton said Sunday that he is focusing all of his efforts on a strong showing at this year’s Tour de France, perhaps joining his former boss and teammate on the podium.
The 33-year-old from Massachusetts, who left U.S. Postal just over two years ago having helped Lance Armstrong win the first three of five yellow jerseys, failed to repeat his success from last year when he won the Liège-Bastogne- Liège World Cup classic for the Danish CSC team.
Hamilton on Sunday finished ninth on the season’s fifth World Cup race, finishing 12 seconds behind winner Davide Rebellin who claimed his third major victory in a week having won last Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race and the Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday.
However, Hamilton says he now has other fish to fry. Since switching teams to Phonak, he has continued to fine-tune a career that has gone from strength to strength on all fronts, whether it is climbing, time trialing or competing in the tough one-day classics.
It means that instead of focusing just on a Tour de France stage win, as he did last year, Hamilton can focus on the overall standings of the world’s biggest bike race, where Armstrong will be bidding for a record sixth win.
“I’m excited, the Tour is just around the corner, it’s not so far away,” said Hamilton, who last year completed the Tour, and won the 16th stage, despite carrying a shoulder fracture for most of the three-week race.
“I’ll try to win, but you also have to be realistic. Lance Armstrong has won the past five Tours and Jan Ullrich has never been less than second – and even then you have many other riders who are strong.”
Hamilton’s task in July will prove tough, as the Armstrong versus Ullrich showdown is likely to dominate most of the headlines.
However with a new-found freedom at Phonak, who intend to put all their men behind him in July, Hamilton suggests he could give his former team leader a run for his money.
“I train like I want to win, but I have to be in better condition than last year,” added Hamilton. “I train harder, I focus more and I’m paying attention to everything. I live and breathe cycling for nine, ten months of the year. I feel like I’m still improving and this year I’ll take another step up.
“I’ve been given a lot more freedom to make choices to build the team for the Tour de France – riders, particular riders, equipment – basically everything’s focused on the Tour,” Hamilton told reporters on Sunday. “There are many chiefs in our team, like Alex Zülle and Oscar Camenzind – who are leaders at other times of the year – but they know that on the Tour it will all be for me.
“They know that now and they’ll know it in July,” Hamilton added with a smile.
Copyright Agence France Presse 2004