The Jay Sweet Diary 1998
The Local East Coast Australian Time is
July 3, 1998 - Franco-Belge:
How's it going? I'm okay, I'm just starting to enjoy my holidays. As you may or may not have already heard, I'm not doing the Tour de France. The team for BIG MAT hasn't been picked yet but I have told the director not to worry about me for selection. My form and morale is not up to Tour standard at the moment and I'd rather not go than get eliminated in the first 2 days. Anyway here's how Franco - Belge went...........
Franco - Belge, Stage 1 - 175km
Well I have done a bit of sprint training since Circuito Montanes and with the Tour selection so close I thought here is a chance to prove myself, not only to my team but to myself also. I was a bit disappointed with my form after Montanes so I had spent most of last week trying to build back my confidence for this race.
This was you typical Belgian race but worse.........it was an amateur race. I think I have been a bit spoilt racing in France with the pro's on nice big roads. I absolutely hated every minute of this stage. I think we turned a corner every 1000m and all the roads were 1 lane back streets, some of them weren't even bitumenised. Guy's were falling off left, right and centre and it didn't take long for me to lose all the morale I had just built up. The finish line was on top of a small climb that we had to go over 4 times. I just finished with the main group.
Stage 2 - 180km
Dinner last night in our "1 star motel" was appalling. I think I have definitely had too much of the good life, though when your moral is low you tend to notice the little things more. Todays stage was relatively flat. There was 11km of pave. There was a K.O.M. sprint after 45km and it just happened to be outside of our motel. I wasn't going to go for it but I couldn't help it. I took off like a bullet from a gun and won it by about 30m. Straight after the sprint I was in a small break but it didn't last long. I stayed at the front of the bunch for the first pave section. I was hoping that it would split across it. My legs are good and I feeling motivated, I want to attack, I want to win! BANG! I punctured at the front of the bunch on the first section. I had to wait for the whole bunch to pass before I could get a wheel. I chased by myelf for a good 20km before deciding it was time for my well over due break. I stopped at the feed zone and it was there that I decided that there is no Tour de France for me this year.
My plans now are to have a nice easy week in Toulouse before heading off to meet up with Marcel Gono in Slovakia. There we will make alot of strength endurance training as well as some x-trainin...that is, Horse riding, white water rafting, fishing, hunting and some serious coffee shop action. I will keep you updated with the events from Slovakia.
June 19, 1998 - Circuito Montanes:
Stage 1 - 125km
This tour is really well known for it's under-rated profiles. Todays stage looked lumpy with 2 x cat 3 climbs. The first was at 31km and the second was at the 44km mark. I was riding at the front with Matthew Hayman (amateur Rabobank) and he warned me about the decent after 10km. The road was gravel and it had been raining all morning so it was going to be like mud, very slippery and dangerous......Perfect place for an attack. As the peloton slowed down at the bottom of the decent I clicked up 2 gears and let out a big attack. Only 4 other guys were crazy enough to follow me and one of them was Matt Hayman. We took some pretty big risks over the next 10km on the wet slippery roads and had a small gap of around 1 minute. We were caught at the bottom of the 2nd climb so it was good for me because I probably would've been dropped on the 1st K.O.M. I was off the back of the bunch over the 2nd climb in a small group and we chased for the next 40km. We finally got back on and I remembered from the profile that it was pretty flat. I was preparing for a bunch sprint, the whole team was on the front setting the pace when 5km to go there was a 2km climb that shouldn't have been there. I was dropped with alot of others but my team mate who was setting the pace for me jumped off the front and won the stage by 9 seconds.
Stage 2 - 1.5km time trial
Today was a split day. In the morning it was a short time trial but was straight uphill. I did it in my smallest gear so you can imagine how steep it was. My team mate, Alexei Sivakov was in the jersey and won the time trial so he would keep the jersey .
Stage 3 - 120km
The afternoon stage was or looked pretty easy. My job was to swap off, try to get over the K.O.M then win the bunch sprint. Easy! I swapped off with one other rider from my team for the first 50km then when we hit the hill I was dropped again. I chased for 30km into a block head wind and when I realised I wasn't getting back on I decided to tempo to the finish. It's pretty hard to tempo into a head wind by yourself. When I finally made it to the finish I was told by my director that I had been too far out of the time limit and was eliminated.
I wanted to try and get through this tour but everyone said before that it was a really hard and hilly tour. My next race is Franco Belge, it's supposed to be flat so hopefully I get a chance at a bunch sprint.
June 1, 1998 - Tour of Britain:
Prologue, 5km - ITT
Today was a nasty little time trial. It finished on a steep cobbled climb. I rode hard around the circuit but when I hit the finishing climb I put it in my smallest gear and rode to the top. The climb was about 18% so even though I wasn't racing up the climb it was still extremely difficult. I finished 32nd, which was pretty good considering I didn't max out. Stuey O'Grady finished in 5th place.
Stage 1, 210km
After yesterday, I thought I was going alright. How wrong I was. Today I was absolutely creeping. I went out the back after the first climb (83km) but then had to chase for the next 15km. I finally got back on but then we started the next climb which put me straight out the back again. The chase this time wasn't so far. Fortunately the bunch sat up afterwards and I was able to get back on quicker. Just before the last climb the road was full of short steep climbs and I was dropped leading up to the last K.O.M. After that I just found the laughing group and rode in to the finish. Stuey had a good day today and finished 3rd in the stage.
Stage 2, 170km
I wasn't looking forward to today's stage at all. There were 4 x K.O.M. sprints today. The first 2 were around 22% which is really steep but they were nothing to the 3rd. It was 33%.......that's right! I couldn't believe it myself. Most riders had a 25 tooth cog on the back wheel but I only had a 23. I think I was doing about 4km/hr up it and that wasn't bad. Some guys stopped and walked up it for a while. Steve Williams who was riding for the Australian National team was caught on camera. He had stopped half way up the climb and was shaking hands with the crowd. It was a good laugh watching it on T.V. that night. I finished the stage with one of the laughing groups, I think it was the 2nd out of 4. Stuey won the stage in a small group sprint which put him in the leaders jersey. My team mate finished 3rd in today's stage. A good result for the team.
Stage 3, 188km
Finally my first win for the year! I've waited a long time for this. I went over the top of the first K.O.M. with the leaders but punctured on the descent after. I had a nice little chase back on. I was sitting behind the back of my team car and we were doing about 60km/hr through a small village when suddenly there was a real tight right hand turn. My team director saw it at the last second and locked it up. I quickly swerved to the left of the car and as I looked up I realised there was no more road left, just a great big building with a heap of spectators in front of it. I locked up both wheels and fortunatly the crowd moved in time for me to jump the gutter and I stopped just before I hit the building. After that I told the director to go on ahead, I figured I'd be safer on my own. I rejoined the peloton not long after. The roads were up and down all day. There was a small break up the road (5mins) and we had one guy in it. Team Gan swapped off all day and it was a bit uncomfortable. Around the 100km mark the bunch came to a stop in a small town. It turned out that someone had stolen the race signs from the side of the roads before the bunch had got there and eveyone got lost. We stopped for a good 20mins while the race organizers decided what to do. The front group was stopped and had to wait for the peloton to rejoin. We were under neutralization for approx 30km. Once we rejoined with the break they started again and we had to wait another 5 mins before we could start again. When we started again the pace was fast. Everyone was keen to catch the group. The Gan team continued to chase and with 15km to go the whole bunch was together again. It was going to be the first bunch sprint for the tour. I followed the Gan train the whole way to the finish. 500m to go Neil Stephens opened up the sprint with the Festina sprinter (Andre Korf) in his wheel. I swapped trains and got on the back of them then Magnus Backstedt hit out with 250m to go. I jumped on to his wheel and then came off him to take my first win for the year.
Stage 4, 153km
This stage was pretty straightforward. There was one K.O.M. climb for the day. The Gan team swapped off all day. There was a small group up the road and Gan just held it at 7mins. There was a small pinch 27km to go. After we passed that my team was going to get on the front and bring back the small break and we would have another chance for a bunch sprint. At the bottom of the decent from the last climb there was a tight left hand corner. Neil Stephens slipped on the slippery corner and fell off, I was on his wheel and went to miss him when my front wheel went from underneath me. I hate crashing! I didn't really hurt myself, just took a bit of skin off. My team mates waited for me and got me back on the bunch. We didn't ride on the front and we didn't catch the small break. I lost motivation for the sprint today but there will be another chance.
Stage 5, 207km
Today was one of the saddest experiences in my cycling career. Whilst we were racing, one of the police escorts who ensure that the roads ahead are clear for us to race on was hit by an oncoming car and died. The race was stopped for more than an hour. It was then decided by the organization and the riders that this stage would be cancelled and the prize money for todays stage would go to the policeman's family. It was really sad for me because this guy lost his life protecting mine!
Stage 6, 146km
It was another straightforward stage today. Team Gan set the tempo all day today. There was a small climb 25km to go so all I had to do was get over that and I could have another chance at a stage. Sounds simple doesn't it? Well the last climb was about 20% and the bunch hit it at about 60km/hr. I lasted about 200m with the front guys then I blew. 2 of my team mates waited for me to get me back on but the front group (approx 12 guys) was going too fast. V. Ekimov (U.S. Postal) did his famous move and attacked about 2km to go and the group was unable to catch him. He won the stage and Stuey bought the group home for 2nd. My team mate finished 4th in today's stage.
Stage 7, 170km
We started the stage today at the Chessington World of Adventures. It was a theme park just out of London. After I signed on a guy from the organization grabbed me and asked if I could do a photo for him. I agreed and followed him. Before I knew it I was sitting on a ride, fully clothed in my race gear including race shoes. He said they wouldn't start it, I just had to sit there for a photo but the guard rails came down and the ride started up. I grabbed for my Oakleys just in time, the ride was spinning me upside down and around and around. After the ride I was ready to race........... to the toilet!
With this stage being the 2nd to last there was no way Gan was going to let any breaks go away. Stuey still had the jersey and was sprinting well to so they were keen to have a bunch sprint. We had the same interest too so I told him that if I got over the last K.O.M. with the bunch I would put some guys up on the front with his to keep it together for a sprint then we could fight it out for the stage. I made it over the climb and I was heading for my 2nd bunch sprint for the stage. I had a good position leading into the last 1km. Magnus (Gan) hit out 500m to go with Stuey on his wheel and me on Stuey's. 200m to go there was a sharp left hander. I went through it 3rd and that's where I stayed. The last 200m was down hill and extremely hard to pass on. Stuey just managed to get passed his team mate to win and I was third. That's 2 for Stuey and he still leads the race. It's pretty certain that he'll win the tour providing that there are no accidents in tomorrow's circuit race.
Stage 8, 80km
This stage was the last and was also in London City. There was a huge crowd and it was 1.6km circuit. I had been promising people all week that I would win this one. It's becoming known to be my speciality to win the last stage if it's a circuit race. I was pretty motivated to win this one. Both my team and team Gan swapped off to keep it together for a bunch sprint. The last few laps were extremely fast and furious. There was plenty of pushing and shoving for the best position, which was where I happened to be. Once again Magnus hit out 500m to go with Stuey in his wheel and I was in Stuey's. I had worked exactly what I had to do and where I had to come from. The last corner was 150m to go and I went through it 3rd wheel. I propped early and had already squeezed 2 pedal strokes in before the 2 guys infront of me had thought about it. As I was starting to sprint, Stuey who was in front of me pulled his foot and I powered ahead to take the stage comfortably. I was confident of winning today and was very relieved after. It takes a lot for someone to say a week before the race that he is going to win it then to go and do it.
Stuey went on to win the tour and also the points jersey along with 2 stages. Jens Voigt won the sprints jersey and I won 2 stages. Marcel Gono worked his butt off all week swapping off for Stuey, being a super domestic.
I know after reading this you may think it was an easier tour with all of us Toulousians dominating the race but in actual fact it was very difficult race. After day 2 I wasn't sure if I was going to finish or not. We all train extremely hard down in Toulouse and are dedicated to our sport. We have trained and raced hard all season and it was only a matter of time before we started to get the results we deserve. It was just a coincidence that we got them at the same race. I just want to congratulate Stuey on a super tour. It's been a while since an Australian has won a major tour in Europe. Keep an eye out for big things from him in this year's Tour de France.
I hope you enjoyed my report because it took me ages to type. My next race I think is Circuit Montanes in Spain. It's in another 10 days so log on then for my next report. Bye for now.