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Stage 18: Rovereto to Brescia — 144 Km
By Tyler Hamilton, CSC-Tiscali cycling team
The finishing circuits of today’s stage were incredibly dangerous. Wedid three laps around the city of Brescia through streets full of switchbacks paved largely with cobblestones.
You hear guys talking about wet cobblestones being slippery all thetime – but even dry, they can be pretty treacherous. Years worth of trafficon the stone’s surfaces can make them as smooth as ice. With the sprinter’steams setting up their men, it felt like the peloton was rocketing throughthe circuits at certain points. It was pretty hairy. The lead out trainsguided us through the sharp turns by slowing way down until we were safelythrough them. But then they would go like mad to get us back up to speed.
It was a game of keeping up and hoping for the best. I’m surprised theywould have such a dangerous circuit so late in the race. A pile up wouldhave been pretty cruel after nearly three weeks of racing. Some guys playedit safe and lost a little time. But you can’t blame them for putting apremium on staying upright.
One of those days
Yesterday was one of those days that reminds you of how unforgivingthe sport of cycling can be. It’s not every day you see the top four guysin G.C. crack. But that’s exactly what happened. I was an unhappy participantin that scenario but was lucky enough to limit my losses a little bit.It could have been a much bigger disaster.
The stage was deceiving to say the least. I felt good most of the way.Probably until about the time I decided to attack. When Salvodelli counteredhe was going the speed of a motorbike and I knew that wasn’t going to workfor me.
There was still a fair distance to travel at that point. In hindsight,I should have waited to make a move. Or, waited for someone else to makea move, then followed. We ride and learn, I guess.
Back in the group I wound up in, there was some hesitation to chaseSalvodelli. I wound up doing the lion’s share of chasing. This effort combinedwith a low sugar level lead to my paying a pretty high price. I bonkedfrom not eating enough on the climb. I had been feeling pretty good andmistakenly thought I would be okay through the finish.
Wouldn’t you know that the group I was in would get a second wind justas I started to come off the back. It was a pretty low point. But my teammateshad done too much work for me in this race for me to cry uncle at thatpoint. So I had to dig deep.
I don’t know if you saw my face as Icrossed the finish yesterday. But if you did, you saw real pain.
The lasting impression
Looking back on yesterday’s stage, I realize I made my fair share ofmistakes. Things seem so much clearer after the fact. But during the heatof battle things aren’t always so obvious. But the learning process isall part of the sport of racing. I guess you could say I’m still workingmy way into my role as a leader.
When you have been riding as long as I have the years of racing all start to blend together a bit. But there are specific moments along the way, that on the surface seem insignificant, but have a way of staying with you forever.
I had one of those experiences yesterday while descending down from the finish, after the stage.
About two kilometers from the top I passed Cadel Evans. He was stillstruggling toward the finish and I felt his pain. Having been in his positionjust moments earlier, and knowing all too well what it feels like to havea bad day in a grand tour, I really felt for the guy. I don’t know howhe found the strength, but he looked up at me and gave me the thumbs up.
It was an unbelievable gesture. Especially considering the circumstances. I won’t ever forget it.Every ounce
I don’t know if you know this or not, but tomorrow’s stage is an individual time trial.Okay, I’m kidding. If you are reading this, you know.
We previewed the course tonight by car after the stage. It’s going to be a difficult day. There’s no place to hide on this course with its gradual build upto some rolling hills toward the end.
I’m no fortune teller so I can’t predict for you how the day is going to shake out. But I will promise youthis. I will leave it all on the road tomorrow. Every ounce I have left.And then, after three weeks of fighting, whatever will be, will be.Thanks for reading.
Editor’s Note:Tyler Hamilton is sending diary entries toVeloNews.com every other day throughout the 2002 Giro d’Italia. Click belowfor his earlier entries.The Prologue: Noworse for wearStage 2: Gettingon TrackStage 4: Charginginto StrasbourgStage 6: Troublecomes in threes… I hopeStage 8 Theroad to recoveryStage 9 Forza!Stage 11 NoExcusesStage 13 ASpecial Group of GuysRest day #2 Refuseto QuitStage 16 Today was hardCare to comment? Send ane-mail to our letters page.