By Tyler Hamilton, CSC professional cycling team
What a difference a week makes.
Last Sunday night was a pretty low point for me and everyone on the CSC team. But here we are seven days later, reflecting on a day we couldn’t have imagined was possible.
It’s impossible to explain the range of emotions this team has been through since the start of the Tour. But everyone has rallied around me and my effort to continue. I don’t know where I’d be without their support.
My being able to stay in this race has been the result of a full and collective effort by all the riders and staff. Everyone has tried to stay as positive as possible. Nonetheless, we are still taking things stage by stage.
Figuring out a game plan hasn’t been easy. Friday morning I had an informal meeting with my wife and our team’s doctor. By that point I had made it through four days of relatively flat racing and I was still in a lot of pain. We had to be realistic about my chances of being able to climb in stages 7 and 8. We made a pact. If I lost 15 minutes or more on either stage, I would have to stop the race. That was our deal.
I finished yesterday’s stage with a lot of pain in my back and ribs. The consensus was that my other bruises were becoming more apparent since the pain in my collar bone was starting to become a little bit more manageable.
It hasn’t subsided very much, it’s more like I’m just starting to get used to it. But on the bright side of things, I was happy to be able to stand up a little bit on the bike today. I’m still not able to accelerate with 100-percent effort, but I do feel like I’m gaining a little bit of my strength back, which is good for my morale.
Painfully affectionate fans
The climb up Alpe d’Huez was loaded with people today. The fans were crazy. They were throwing water on us and crowding the roads in ways you expect on the big climbs. But a few fans went a little overboard with the cheering and back patting. I wound up getting smacked in my right shoulder twice. But luckily, no harm was done.
We are staying on top of the mountain tonight, because it’s nearly impossible to get down after the stage. There’s only one road to Alpe d’Huez and that starts getting filled up with cars and spectators days in advance. So, some people who attempt a descent following the stage wind up sitting in their cars well into the early hours of the morning trying to get down.
Luckily, there are a number of ski resorts up here, so there are plenty of hotel rooms for everyone from the race. It’s always a bonus when you can jump off your bike and walk into your hotel. Long transfers make difficult days seem kind of endless. Tonight was one of the first nights I was actually on time for dinner.
I had a surprise visitor last night. My CU Cycling coach, Eric Schmidt was at the Tour de France on vacation and stopped by my hotel. He said he nearly didn’t recognize me since I’m about 25 pounds lighter than I was back in college. I guess I drank a little more beer back then. It was great to see him, especially since he was one of the guys who helped launch my career in cycling. Neither of us would have ever thought I would ride in seven Tour de Frances. I guess that goes to show you never know where certain opportunities will lead.
I’m sorry if this journal entry isn’t very riveting. We have CNBC on our televisions here at the hotel tonight and they are showing the previous week’s worth of the Tonight Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. It’s been 7 months since I’ve seen American television so I’m having a hard time pulling myself away. It’s good to have a few laughs… even if I have no idea who the guests are.
Behind the Scenes
I’ve been trying to concentrate on using a higher cadence in this year’s Tour de France. I’ve been riding a 52×36 instead of a typical 53×39.
Thanks for reading.