By Andrew Hood
Tyler Hamilton might not be going up against former teammate Lance Armstrong at next month’s Tour de France after all.
Hamilton said moments after finishing second overall at the 2002 Giro d’Italia that a nagging shoulder injury caused in a horrific crash in stage 5 might keep him out of the Tour.
“It’s possible, it depends how serious it is,” Hamilton said. “For sure I have a problem in there. It’s bothering me every day.”
Hamilton will stay in Milan on Monday so doctors can X-ray his left shoulder. If the injury is serious enough, Hamilton said he would return to the United States to consult doctors there.
Hamilton confirmed he plans to start the Tour on July 6 in Luxembourg where Armstrong will go for his fourth consecutive victory, but said the shoulder injury makes it difficult to race the bike.
Hamilton crashed three times during the first week of the 20-stage Giro. In stage 5 in a difficult climbing day he landed hard on his shoulder while descending when his spindle broke on his rear wheel. Since then, he has not been able to lift his left arm higher than his shoulder and he’s been working up to 2.5 hours every morning with a physical therapist to ease the pain so he could race.
“I fought hard in this race. I’ve had some injuries. I’ve had more problems than people think,” he said. “Sometimes in the climbs I couldn’t get out of my saddle.”
“In a stage like today, you have to speed up, slow down, every time I brake, it’s like, ‘ouch,’” he aaid. “Every time I have to slow down and accelerate it hurts.”
Following his impressive performance at the Giro, Hamilton is expected to give Armstrong a run for his money in the Tour. Hamilton was one of Armstrong’s top helpers in the Texan’s three straight Tour victories, but left the U.S. Postal Service team at the end of last season to lead the CSC-Tiscali team.
Hamilton won a stage and finished second overall at the Giro, finishing 1:41 behind race winner Paolo Savoldelli.