By Andrew Hood
Tyler Hamilton had just finished riding to the top of grueling climb of Luz Ardiden, the summit finish for what will be Stage 15 in the Tour de France still nearly six weeks away, but he wasn’t done yet.
Hamilton had already climbed the Col d’Aspin, a snowy and muddy Col du Tourmalet and then motor-paced up Luz Ardiden. But he wanted one more look at the final climb in what’s sure to be a decisive stage in the 2003 Tour.
“I’ll race you down,” Hamilton says half-joking to Team CSC sports director Johnny Weltz.
It was no contest. By the time Weltz and soigneur Josep Salgueda reached the bottom, Hamilton was ready for more.
“Go have lunch and I’ll come look for you guys in a little while,” Hamilton said. “I want to ride it one more time.”
VeloNews tagged along as Hamilton spent two days in the Pyrenees last week, previewing the most important climbs in what’s become a tradition for the New Englander. It’s a habit he started while riding with Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service team. Last year, he previewed all the major stages en route to finishing second overall in the 2002 Giro d’Italia.
“By the time I rode the time trial in the Giro, it was the sixth time on the course, so it just goes to show what a difference it can make,” Hamilton said, referring to his victory in the Giro’s 14th stage 30km individual time trial.
Hamilton will be making a run for the Tour podium this summer and is taking most of May and early June off from racing to prepare. Earlier, he previewed the 16th stage from Pau to Bayonne and the final time trial from Pornic to Nantes. He’ll hit the key Alpine stages during the Criterium du Dauphine Libere, his last race before the Tour.
The previous day before hitting Tourmalet, Hamilton rode through snow, rain, cold and wind over the course of the 14th stage from Saint Girons to Loudenvielle.
For Hamilton, it’s all about being prepared.
“It doesn’t make the stage any easier, but you know what lies ahead,” Hamilton said. “You know where the hard parts are and you can pick apart the climb and break it into small sections.”
By the end of the day, Hamilton rode 120km, 60km of them uphill. Come July, there won’t be any surprises for Hamilton, but he might have a few for the rest of the peloton.
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