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By Tyler Hamilton, CSC professional cycling team
Today’s individual time trial was pretty brutal. The route was difficult with a lot of uphills, false flats and a headwind. I guess you could say today was a warm-up for the four tough days that lay ahead. The heat was also a huge factor this afternoon. It was nearly 100 degrees out there. I finished exhausted and dehydrated. I think I was half delirious on the bus ride back to Toulouse.
Jan Ullrich waxed everyone with one incredible ride. Anyone who doubted him before the Tour started probably changed their thinking after today. He definitely came to France ready to ride. I think we’re going to see the Jan of old in the Pyrénées — good news for cycling fans and bad news for the peloton.
I was happy with today’s result in light of the fact that I thought I was out of the race for good on the rest day. I went to bed with a pinched nerve the night before, and awoke with some of the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt the next morning. Ole to the rescue
Anyone who has dealt with a nerve problem before must know what I’m talking about. For me, this was a first. The pain radiating from my spine dwarfed the pain I was feeling in my collarbone. It was incredible. I could barely get out of bed, and taking more than a half breath was out of the question. I was really lucky we didn’t have to race on Wednesday, because I don’t know if I could have started in that condition.
But once again, Ole came to the rescue. He hadn’t been able to crack or adjust my back since the crash in Stage 1. In addition to my fractures, I had hit my head pretty hard, which left my neck in rough shape. Add ten days of riding while favoring my left side, and it added up to trouble for my back. My spine had apparently twisted just enough that the bones about half way down started pressing together on a nerve.
Ole had to work step-by-step, but was finally able to crack my back. He was afraid of hurting me but I kept telling him if it was going to fix things to keep going. By the time he got me straightened out, it felt like someone had finally reversed the truck parked on my back. I can’t explain in words the kind of relief I felt at that point. I nearly lost it.
Yesterday I was still a little sore from the whole ordeal since my muscles had spent about a day and a half completely clenched. But by this morning, I was feeling a little better. So, hopefully the nerve thing is behind me. Okay, quick — everyone knock on wood. It’s not unusual to have one injury lead to another. I was lucky we could get the situation with my back under control. It’s not always that easy.
Some people may have already said that the Tour really started today. It was a difficult time trial that certainly shook things up and spread things out a bit. There’s still a lot of racing left to do, though. The Pyrénées are looming, and I have a feeling they are not going to be very forgiving. Especially with the heat wave we’re having here in Europe. There’s going to be some serious water bottle-run traffic in and out of the caravan in the days ahead.
Behind the Scenes
Yesterday, we were ranked first in the team competition and received medals and miniature Credit Lyonnais lions. The surprise was seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger walk out on stage during the presentation. He was here at the Tour promoting his new movie “Terminator 3” which is also featured in the publicity caravan that parades along the race route ahead of the riders. Carlos Sastre challenged Arnold to an arm wrestle, but the offer was declined.
Thanks for reading.