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By Tyler HamiltonU.S. Postal Service Rider
If things went according to plan, I would have ridden the first half of today’s (Montluçom–St. Amand-Montrond) time trial hard to set splits for Lance. But it was apparent by about 5.2 seconds into the race that my body was still crying Uncle. Knowing that I wouldn’t be setting any land speed records this afternoon, I opted for plan B, which was to ride steady while conserving a few matches for the next two days. This race won’t be finished until Lance crosses the line in Paris. And we’ll be on guard until that very moment. So I, along with my teammates, still need some strength.
It’s safe to say, Lance is the only member of the team who put the pedal to the metal today. And fly he did. Because we’re friends and have been teammates for so long, I view my comrade as more than merely a great cyclist. But on days like today I’m reminded of just how incredibly talented he is. Racing along side him is surely frustrating for his main competitors, but it’s an honor and a rare opportunity for any rider to support this guy — who is so clearly in his own league.
The Tour de France effects everyone differently and today’s results probably prove that. We’re talking about a take-no-prisoners sporting event that can make heroes of the unlikely and humble pie of the favorites. It just depends on which side of the pendulum you are on. Because one thing is for sure at the Tour — you will know success and you will know failure. Today we saw surprises up and down the results sheet — and somewhere out there I’m sure, the Tour de France fates are having a good laugh.
The last great race still up for grabs within this race is for the green sprinter’s jersey. O’Grady and Zabel will be duking it out all the way to Paris — which is rather unheard of at the Tour. Normally the jerseys are locked up days in advance — so stay tuned for a good fight.
We raced point to point today so there were only team cars at the finish. This meant there was no bus to hide in after we were done racing. The Postal team cars were amid a log jam of fans and press. Every rider had to wade through the throng signing autographs, answering questions and posing for pictures. All great fun after you’ve had something to drink and changed out of your soggy skin suit. Before then however, it’s all pretty trying on your patience.
You know everyone means well, but when you feel like your head is about to explode from the heat and the effort you just put out it’s hard to concentrate on the story Mary from Kansas is telling you about her son Jebb who is sure to be the next American Tour de France winner. Somewhere along the line, usually about the point where Mary starts going on about how Jebb rides 80 miles one way to school each morning, things start getting blurry and you kind of lose track of where the story is actually going. All you can think about is how to make the quickest getaway to the car for that sip of Xtran you so badly desire.
And when your bodily needs begin taking precedence over your ability to be polite ,and you suddenly find yourself thrashing Mary to the ground so you can get to what you are sure by now is life saving replenishment, all you can hear in your wake is chatter and huffing about how Mary has never met anyone so rude in her entire life. But you know after taking that sip from the water bottle you were finally able to reach — that Jebb will make things right with his Mom when he gets to the Tour de France and explains how wasted everyone is two seconds after they cross the finish line.
Thanks for reading.