By Tyler Hamilton, CSC cycling team
THURSDAY: It’s been two very telling days here at the Dauphine. The contenders have shown their cards. Yesterday’s time trial and today’s stage of nearly 245 kilometers put a gap between the guys here to win and the rest of the race.
The time trial was demanding, as I predicted it would be. I wanted to set a pretty good tempo at the beginning so my teammate, Carlos Sastre, would have some benchmarks to work off of. For the remainder of the race I tried to stay steady, but didn’t push myself too far into the red.
Yesterday turned out to be a great day for the Americans. Lance’s decisive victory was followed up by a strong performance from Levi Leipheimer. They are now first and seventh respectively.
With the neutral portion included in the tally, today’s stage covered 245 kilometers. Every race begins with a bit of a “rolling start”, or a parade of sorts that leads the riders out of the starting town. Usually it lasts for about five kilometers until an official waves a flag, and the real racing begins. This is a customary practice in almost every stage race.
After today’s neutral, the French riders decided to wage an official protest to the new helmet rule established in early May. It requires pro riders to wear helmets at all times, except within the final kilometers of a mountain top finish.
Some riders think helmet use should be left up to each individual. So today, all the French riders took off their helmets to make a statement.
I have to admit, I’m all for freedom of expression and protesting what you don’t agree with. But, I think today’s message from the French riders was derailed when one of them collided with a motorcycle on the race course and had to be rushed to the hospital. Luckily, he’s okay. But the accident certainly won’t help them defend their case down the road.
As for the stage itself, well, it was pretty tough. There was a big climb at the end of what proved to be a very long day in the blazing heat. I did my best to help Carlos out a bit, returning to my old role of domestique, grabbing as many water bottles as I could for the guys.
Unfortunately, our man Carlos had a difficult time on the final climb and lost about 10 minutes today. I think a lot of guys suffered out there this afternoon. It was a brutal finish after such a long stage.
I finished what turned out to be a good day of training with the grupetto. I was encouraged to have felt better toward the end of the stage compared with how I was feeling at the start. It doesn’t look like I had a banner day on paper, but in truth, today went according to plan. So, you can plan on continuing to have to “scroll” to see my name in the results, much to my mother-in-law’s dismay. Sorry, Sharon!
Bjarne Riis has joined up with us after being in the United States last week for the Wachovia races and USPRO Championships. He left Philadelphia Monday night on an over night flight. He didn’t sleep a wink on the ride home but that hasn’t kept him from missing a beat.
A soigneur picked him up at the airport and dropped him off in the feedzone during the stage on Tuesday. That’s where the team car stopped to pick him up as the caravan went speeding through. He hasn’t slowed down for two seconds since arriving at the race either. So if you’re dreaming about being a director sportif someday, start stocking up on rest. You won’t get any in season.
I’ll be back after stage 6.
Thanks for reading.