By Tyler Hamilton, CSC-Tiscali cycling team
We had a long day in the saddle yesterday. Stage 1 of this year’s Tourde France was no promenade. It was up and down all day and the speedskept everyone on their toes. It felt like we were riding a one-day Classic,not starting a three-week stage race.The early Tour crash index was at an all time high as well. You couldsee by some of the finish times that those mishaps took their toll. Somebig guns lost precious time. It was a crazy first day to say the least– especially when the roads narrowed and some pace cars got stuck forcingthe riders to unclip from their pedals and slow to a near stop to wadethrough the madness.I got caught up behind a small pile-up toward the end of the stage.Luckily, I didn’t go down. But while standing there waiting for the chaosto untangle in front of me a guy crashed into my back wheel. It buckledand I lost a few seconds waiting for a bike change.Luckily, Michael Sanstod was keeping an eye on me and stopped to helppace me back to the group. He worked like an ox yesterday both up at thefront and looking after me. We had our work cut out for us catching backonto the main group due to the amount of attacking going on heading towardthe finish. But we made it. I’m certain Michael slept well last night.We were a bit disappointed to not see Laurent Jalabert wind up withthe yellow jersey yesterday. He had earned a time bonus in an intermediatesprint that made him the virtual leader on the road. Luck would have it,though, that the guy who won the stage cashed in enough of a time bonusto take the yellow. But Laurent is still within striking distance, so we’llsee if we can work some magic in what remains of this week.Into Germany
We left Luxembourg today and traveled into Germany. I remember thelast time the Tour came to this country, the fans were crazy. TheU.S. Postal director kept telling us to swarm around Lance because thecrowds were so out of hand.Today was close to the same. There were fans nearly everywhere alongthe race route cheering, dancing and basically going crazy. They are prettyenthusiastic about cycling in these parts. And it’s great to see. But thehoopla can get a little dangerous. One fan came dancing out into the streetand nearly took out my teammate Paul Van Hyfte while he was on a solo attack.Surly if a mishap had occurred it wouldn’t have been intentional. But oneincident like that can change a guy’s whole race.Parts of today’s stage were a virtual obstacle course. Here’s a sampleof some of the things I saw in the road and in the path of on coming riders:a picnic blanket, a camera tripod, a lady’s purse and lots of humans. Ihad to actually bunny hop over the tripod. It was a little gnarly. Andon top of that, the crowds were so thick on the descents that they wereforming the kind of human tunnel you normally only see on a mountain topfinish. In case you were wondering, riding at top speed through clappinghands and cheering fists firing at you from close proximity is a littleunnerving, especially during the second day of a grand tour. I was happyto make it through today without any major mishaps.My good buddy Ole is back on the road with us here at the Tour de France.You may recall my going on about him during the Giro. He was a big factorin my ability to remain in that race through to Milan.He is staying with us here at the Tour through to Paris. And he’s workingplenty hard. Unlike the soigneurs who each are assigned to two or threeriders, Ole is a one-man operation. He sees four or five riders every night.And he sometimes sees guys like me, who have on-going problems, beforethe start as well.I honestly don’t know how he does it. The therapy he provides requiresa lot of strength. His technique is very similar to message but he alsospends a great deal of time applying pressure to various points throughoutthe body. You wouldn’t know by looking at him how strong he is. For a leanmean fighting machine he can unblock the toughest of knots and injuries.He says he can work for ten hours a day doing what he does. He’s reallyincredible. On that note, it’s time for me to check in with him, again.Thanks for reading.
Tyler Hamilton and Jonathan Vaughters are sending in regular updatesfrom peloton throughout this year’s Tour de France.To read other diary entries go to the “Riders’Diaries” section and follow the appropriate links.