By Tyler Hamilton, U.S. Postal Service professional cycling team
SAINT-LARY-SOULAN: (Sorry about the delay with yesterday’s journal folks, I couldn’t get online!) I don’t know that I’ve ridden a lot of stages more difficult than today. When we came to preview the course in May we realized this day was probably going to be one of the most critical of the Tour de France. There was no mercy – just up and down and back up again.
Good bike karma has not been on my side much at this edition of the Tour de France. For the third time in this year’s race my bike had mechanical issues. For the second time, the derailer on my climbing broke. There’s nothing you can do in a situation like this except stop. It’s not like having a flat where you can keep rolling. The team car was a ways away so I had to wait a bit to make the change out to my standard road bike. Unfortunately this happened at the base of a climb. I had to chase hard to get back to the group.
The race passed by the Fabio Casartelli monument today. There was some conversation of the peloton stopping like it did a few years back. But attacks were going from the gun so we weren’t able to. The team however, paid their respects during our training camp in the Pyrenees back in May.
The monument is really breath taking. Every time I see it, I’m humbled by it. Lance dedicated his stage win to Fabio in much the same style he did the year he lost his teammate – pointing to the sky as he crossed the finish line. Although I never knew him, I like to think that Fabio was smiling somewhere today, seeing his old friend succeed.
Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike, was on hand today to view the race from the passenger seat of the first team car. If Lance was trying to impress his guest, I’d say he did so and then some. It’s not every day you get to see the guy you’re rooting for win a stage and take over the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.
My family was at the finish. They braved the crowds and decided to head to the mountaintop for a bird’s eye view of the final kilometers. I don’t think they were disappointed to see Lance come charging up the mountain all alone. And with their collection of American flags and Postal regalia they were probably irritating more than one Frenchman. But knowing my family, they gave JaJa equal time.
Thanks for reading.