By Tyler Hamilton, CSC-Tiscali cycling team
Well, I can finally check off Tour number six. I’m happy to have arrived here in Paris.
This was a tough battle for me personally. I think I’m more tired today than I was after the final stage of the Giro. It’s safe to say this year’s Tour took its toll on me. I’m a bit haggard.
The final time trial on Saturday was a full suffer fest. I felt completely awful that morning during the training ride before the stage. My lungs were quite restricted due to the congestion from my cold. If I had been at any other race besides a Grand Tour, I probably wouldn’t have started. And that’s saying a lot, because I hate to drop out of races. I have to be a pretty big wreck to even consider the idea. I fought hard during the time trial and although I felt far from great I had a respectable ride.
Lance put a stamp on his fourth Tour victory Saturday afternoon. I think everyone expected him to ride with his whole heart hanging out after losing out in the first time trial. He certainly wasn’t in any danger of doing that twice. I’m happy to see my old friend on top of the podium again. He made it clear once again, that he is the only rider of this current generation who is in his league. Pretty fantastic stuff. His talent and ability on the bike is both inspiring and humbling. I don’t know another guy who can do what he does. Hats off to my amigo and all my old pals on the U.S. Postal team. They rode a fantastic race, controlling the entire outcome from start to finish.
Another American and former teammate to put forth an exceptional ride was Levi Leipheimer. For him to arrive at his first Tour de France as a team leader with all the pressure that goes along with that role, and do as well as he did is quite amazing.
I’m really happy for him and his wife Odessa. She of course, is his favorite training partner, so I have to give her credit for getting Levi in such good shape before the race. After seeing him climb like a champ throughout all the mountain stages, the cycling world will be expecting big things from the Montana man in the years ahead.
Although there were a lot of near misses for CSC-Tiscali at the 2002 Tour de France, we did achieve our goals here at this race. With Laurent Jalabert finishing in the polka dot jersey and Carlos Sastre in the top 10 there is a lot to feel good about. This is still a developing team finding its legs and the strengths of its leaders.
You could say much of this year’s season has been a bit of an experiment. We set out to try a few new things and have done quite a bit of learning in the process. Bjarne believes that this is the “team of the future.” I think this team is on the right track. I hope we can put everything we know now, to work for us next season. In fact, as I say this, I’m thinking Bjarne probably has a road map and a game plan all figured out by now. So, I’ll keep you posted on things as we progress.
After the finish, CSC hosted a party for the team at the Danish House on the Champs Eylsees. It was really nice evening. There were over two hundred people on hand for dinner and a lot of celebrating afterward. Although we were in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities, it felt like we had traveled to the country for our celebration. We ate outside in a courtyard of the restaurant. We were entertained by two different bands and a DJ. The party went late into the evening. I think the diehards were dancing around until about 4:30 AM.
After arriving home in Spain tonight, my wife and I went to visit Michael Sandstød. Contrary to earlier doctor’s orders, he is now out of the hospital and recovering at home. He looks great and says he is improving at lightening speed. All good news.
He’s even talking about returning to racing before the season ends. That would be pretty incredible. He asked me to send along his appreciation to everyone who has signed his guestbook and sent notes to wish him well. He has received over 2000 emails. So thanks to everyone who has taken the time to contact him. It has meant an awful lot to Michael and his wife Annette.
I can’t close this journal entry without mentioning Kevin Livingston’s decision to retire at the end of this season. I was a little shocked to hear he was ready to hang up his bike. But I fully respect the decision to put his family first. It’ll be sad to see him go. He’s contributed quite a lot to the European peloton throughout his career. Not only through his riding ability, but also by way of his great sense of humor.
Kevin has always been a great guy to have at your dinner table on the road. It will be a little strange without him and Jonathan Vaughters at the races next season. Even though the American riders are spread out among different teams, we’re all friends. Hearing that these guys are leaving, makes me realize how much I appreciate seeing a familiar face in the peloton. I wish both of them the best of luck.
Now that the Tour has ended, I’m looking forward to taking a couple days easy and recovering a bit. Right now, I kind of feel like an old man.
Thanks for reading.