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Tyler Tunes: Back in the saddle again

Arriving at the Tour de France is always an interesting endeavor. You leave the relative quite of your home life behind to join a roving circus. Even though we stayed put for a few days prior to the start of this race, the pace you keep heading out to medical check ups, media presentations and interviews is nothing short of grueling. I don't think I've had more than a second to myself since arriving here on Wednesday. When my wife and I were driving into the airport, we got to talking about last year's Tour. I was remembering that Steffan Kjeargaard had brought his own comforter and pillow

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By Tyler Hamilton, CSC-Tiscali cycling team

Arriving at the Tour de France is always an interesting endeavor. You leave the relative quite of your home life behind to join a roving circus. Even though we stayed put for a few days prior to the start of this race, the pace you keep heading out to medical check ups, media presentations and interviews is nothing short of grueling. I don’t think I’ve had more than a second to myself since arriving here on Wednesday.

When my wife and I were driving into the airport, we got to talking about last year’s Tour. I was remembering that Steffan Kjeargaard had brought his own comforter and pillow to the race. I was pretty jealous watching him curl up in his goose down every night while I suffered away on my pressed polyester hotel issue sheets. But I guess you could say that as soon as the race ended I got over it, because I didn’t give his sleeping paraphernalia another thought until this week. But on the way to the airport it hit me that it would have been a good idea to at least pack a pillow for the trip. Some of the pillows you get during the Tour remind you of sacks of potatoes while others could be mistaken for lint. Low and behold, the CSC-Tiscali team did have a nice surprise awaiting them at the Tour in the form of a new and unexpected sponsor: A featherbed and pillow provider from Sweden, no less.

The only problem Wednesday night was that I was so tapped from all my travel and running around, that I didn’t have the energy to unpack my new sleeping essentials. But wouldn’t you know my roommate Carlos Sastre had his all set up.

So I found myself in a familiar position that night, looking across the room at my teammate all tucked into his comfy bed while I remained a victim of my own fatigue on the crusty hotel standards. I made a point of setting up my accommodations for Thursday though. And I think I appreciated them all the more after suffering through my self-inflicted misery the night before. All kidding aside, I think I’ve actually slept better with the new bedding. The Scandinavians have the whole sleeping thing dialed to a science.

All the teams spent the day Thursday enduring the standard medical checks the Tour de France administers to each rider. On Friday, each of the teams was presented to the media. Press conferences followed both days’ events which were also followed by a whirlwind of scheduled one-on-one interviews. Once we arrived back at the hotel last night, it was business as usual. Each rider hit the massage tables then headed to dinner and then it was early to bed.

Today’s prologue was a physical and mental challenge for me. With the fresh memory of my rocky start at the Giro still hanging over me a bit, I wanted to put in a solid ride today.

I had a small case of nerves wracking up given that the course was really technical with lots of turns, painted roads and cobblestones. The first half was down hill through lots of corners and the second half was uphill. It threatened rain on and off all morning and early on in the afternoon, but luckily it was dry while I was on the course.

Overall, I was happy with my effort considering my recent hiatus from racing.

Although both Johnny Weltz and Bjarne Riis ribbed me a little after the finish by laughing about the fact that I didn’t take any risks out there today. All I could do was laugh back and agree. I wasn’t going to gamble at all this afternoon. I was glad to see my second split time was much faster than the first, considering the second half of the race was much more difficult.

It was great to see Laurent Jalabert put forth a successful effort today. I knew the terrain was going to suit him well. He is as strong as and ox and fearless to boot. But I have to tell you, the secret to his success today was his bike.

I had been shipped a new time trial bike for the Tour but only got to try it out for the first time this morning. I wasn’t completely comfortable about making the switch to the new bike on such and important day, and ultimately decided to stick with the one I have been riding all season. Laurent picked up my new time trial bike this morning and took if for a test ride. After 2 kilometers he declared that my bike suited him just fine and that he was going to race on it this afternoon. At dinner tonight I jokingly told him that I was taking partial credit for his success today and that he only rode as fast as he did because he was on my bike.

I bet you would have never guessed Laurent and I were the same size.

I’m looking forward to getting going for real tomorrow. It’s been over a month since I’ve raced. It’ll probably be a bit of shock to my legs when the speeds get cranking. But it’ll be good to get back to racing. And seeing what this CSC-Tiscali crew can do here at the Tour de France.

Thanks for reading.