The Jay Sweet Diary 1999

The Local East Coast Australian Time is

March 15, 1999 - Paris-Nice

Dear Bill
Prologue - 9km

I had just finished my warm up, I climbed back into the bus to makemy final preparations. My watch read 14:09, I was off at 14:15 perfecttiming, just enough time to change my undershirt, get oil on my legs, puton my shoe covers and aero helmet and make my way to the sign on. As mylegs were getting a quick rub I glanced over to the clock at the front ofthe bus.......shock horror it read 14:13. It must have been wrong, I lookedat my watch which read 14:10 so I asked my massuer what time it was on hiswatch. He said it was 14:14! I put on my helmet and rushed to my bike. As Iwas arriving to the start line I looked for the position of my team car.It was next! The sign on man told me I had 1min. I quickly signed on andraced over to the start ramp. The time keepers called 30 seconds, I whippedoff my jacket and threw it to my mecanic. I climbed up onto the startramp with 15 seconds to go. PERFECT!

With all the hype from the start I was a bit excited and went outreally hard. With 3km to go I had the fastest split. Unfortunatly the last3km was false flat and really hard. I blew and rode in as best as I could.I finished 86th. Robbie McEwen was 85th, half a second in front of me andMathew White was 84th, half a second in front of Robbie. Close race betweenthe Aussies!

Stage 1 - 185km

What a day! The temp ranged between 0 -3 degrees and it didn't stopraining all day. I was so cold it was painful. Weather like thatde-motivates the bunch which really sucks because then you cruise along at28km/hr and it takes all day to get to the finish. After about 100km CreditAgricole started to ride on the front. With 40km to go the bunch was stilltogether, we were decending when disarster struck. A rider near the frontcrashed and the whole bunch was caught behind except the front 15 riders.This caused major panic in the bunch and before you knew it there was 5bunches. I was half way between the 1st and 2nd group and I tried to go italone. I blew and 2 bunches passed me at the blink of an eye. I was in the3rd bunch which contained Richard Virenque and the whole Polti team. Theywere riding so hard to get back on that half of that bunch was dropped. Iwas the last one to get dropped with 20km to go. I was so glad that thestage was over. All I had to do was ride to finish. I was caught by anothergroup not long after which Matt White was in so we sat on the back and hada nice chat.

Stage 2 - 205km

The weather was a bit better today. It rained until about midday.The bunch cruised for the first 130km. I was riding on the front with theother Aussies (Stuey, Henk, Whitey and Robbie) and we were having a goodlaugh. Stuey was 2nd on G.C. and needed to win the next premie sprint forthe 3 sec bonus to take the jersey from Andrei Tchmil. Stuey is a bitfaster than Tchmil but the time gap was too close so Stuey needed to winthe premie and have Tchmil not place. Yesterdays stage winner (Tchmil)wasn't going to give his jersey up that easy so Stuey asked me if I wasgoing for the sprint! I guess he was hoping that I would finish in betweenhim and Tchmil to take some time away. I wasn't but when I saw what he wasgetting at I decided to have a go (but not too much of a go). I was onStuey's wheel with 1km to go and Tchmil was trying to push me off it. Ididn't budge. With 300m to go he was on the right hand side of me. Whatwent on next I can't really write but Stuey won the sprint, I only managed4th but Tchmil was behind me! Stuey was in the jersey. The stage finishedin a bunch sprint. I held good position for the last 20km. With 4km to go Iwas blocked and had to make a big effort to get back up to the front. WhenI got there I had spent nearly all my energy. With 1km to go the bunchborked and I got stuck again. I started my sprint with 250m to go at about50th wheel and finished 19th. Henk was 3rd, Robbie was 4th and Stuey's inthe jersey. Not a bad day for the Aussies!

Stage 3 - 200km

Today was the first taste of the hills. I didn't enjoy it much. Thebunch was quite controlled, a few small attacks but nothing major. I was upnear the front when we hit the last climb with 20km to go. The bunch hadsplit in half and I was in the front half....just! There was a sprint onthe climb and I was at 100% just to stay with the front guys. We crossedthe line but the hill kept going up. I held on for another 1km but couldn'tstay any longer. After I was dropped the other half of the bunch caught meand we decended into the finish.

Stage 4 - 190km

If yesterday was a taste of the hills, today was a gulp! If theroad wasn't going up it was going down. I stayed with the front group overthe first 3 climbs. I was starting to suffer but was happy with the way Iwas climbing. I looked around the front group and there wasn't manynon-climbers in it. I had just made a joke with one of my team matesbecause he was surprised to see me there when we started another climb andI blew and was dropped. So much for me and the front group. I kept ridingby myself for a while before I was caught by 4 riders. We were chasing fora while but the front group was 4mins in front. We just rode tempo to thefinish. The main group finished about 10mins behind us.

Stage 5 - 211km

Today was a real long day. We were on the bike for 6:30hrs. Therewas 3 long climbs all around 15km or more, the rest was down hill or falseflat. The whole bunch was tired from yesterday and no-one wanted to race.Two guys attacked after about 20km and Rabobank rode tempo. The two guyswent out to 14mins while the bunch rode at about 32km/hr. Even though weweren't going hard 6:30hrs is a long time to be on the bike. My team andMapei got on the front with 50km to go and with 15km to go the break was at2:30mins. With 10km to go there were 2 small climbs. I suffered over thefirst one as the bunch was going at warp speed and after a short descent westarted the 2nd one. This one ripped into my legs and without a quick pushfrom one of my team mates I would have been with the other guys who hadbeen dropped. As we descended into the finish the bunch baulked and 1 Casinorider attacked. I went with 2 counter attacks which drained most of mysprint. With 1km to go I found the wheel of Tom Steels (Mapei). With 300mto go he was still around 15th wheel but I wasn't going to move, I waswaiting for his explosive sprint to take me to the front. With 200m to gowe hadn't moved and it was too late for me to make my sprint. There wasstill 1 guy up the road and the Casino rider finished just ahead of thebunch so we were sprinting for 3rd. I think I'll go back to my old styleand not rely on other sprinters!

Stage 6 - 200km

Today was a hill top finish. We had 3 climbs before the last one.The first climb was 5km long, the second was 17km, the third was 20km thenthe final climb was 30km. The first climb really hurt because everyone wasattacking over it then Rabobank started to tempo on the front so the otherclimbs were controlled and easy to stay with the bunch. The bunch was goingat about 60km/hr to the bottom of the last climb and as soon as we turnedonto it the bunch split to bits. I had a nice easy ride up to the top inthe laughing group with Henk and Whitey. We finished 29mins down.

Stage 7 - 160km

Today was my last chance for a result. The bunch raced hard overthe first 2 climbs. It split a couple of times but I was in the frontgroup. When we turned onto the finish circuit it was all together again. Ifelt good all day and just tried to look after myself for the sprint. Onthe last lap I made my way to the front. I was looking for some team matesbut couldn't find any. With 1km to go the Credit Agricole team was makingthere way to the front. I saw Henk's back wheel and went for it. Just as Igot on it someone hooked him and his back wheel and my front wheel wererubbing. I thought I was going down but I held it up. When the sprintstarted I was still caught behind and couldn't move. Race over!

Paris-Nice wasn't a successful tour for me this year, my form isgood but things just didn't go my way. This happens in sport but there isplenty more races this year so watch out for more results. Bye for now

March 14, 1999 - Het Volk, 205 kms

Dear Bill
What a day, it was about 5 degrees and raining. Cobble stones inthe rain aren't much fun. I remembered the course from last year and knewwhat to expect. I took it as easy as possible and found myself feelingquite good. I rode good position and was going up the steep cobbled climbswith the front guys. When it finally broke up I was in the front 40. Thepace was fast as we turned onto a 2.5km false flat cobbled section (approx130km) that I remembered from last year. I was last wheel and reallysuffering, I'm not much of a pave rider. I started to lose contact with thebreak. First 5m then 10m. I desperately jumped onto the dirt path alongside of the road and was holding the bunch but was in trouble, the pathended and I was forced back onto the cobbles. I lasted another 100m beforeblowing up, that was the last time I saw the break for the day.

As usual I have a story to tell. Because of the rain my breakblocks wore down to the metal so I had no breaks. I was in the peloton orwhat was left of it but I couldn't stop so I sat 50m behind so I could stopin time if I needed to. There were no cars or motorbikes following us anymore except for the Festina car. The Festina director started to pace theother riders meanwhile I was 50m behind. He sped up to 50km/hr and I was nolonger able to keep up! Yep you guessed it..... I was lost. I had no ideawhere the finish was. I finally stopped and asked someone and I had to makea U-turn and ride bake where I came from. 30km later I found the finish! Idon't like racing in Belgium.

Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, 200 kms:

After Het Volk yesterday my legs were a bit tired. The weather wasmuch better, still cold but not raining. I was in a few early breaks andspent alot of energy early. There was one major cobbled climb about halfway and it normally splits on it so everyone wants to be at the front atthe bottom. I was in the 2nd group over the top. There were about 20 ridersin the front group and the same in my group. We were going flat out tryingto catch the front group. After about 20km we caught them, this was thegroup that the winner was going to come from. I had made the front groupagain. Two km's after we had caught the front group we turned right andwent straight up a steep climb. I was absolutly suffering and could onlystay with them for half of the climb before I was dropped. The break splitinto 3 groups over that hill and that's how it stayed. I got caught by therest of the guys that were left and we just rode into the finish.

A nice hard weekend but good training for Paris - Nice nextweekend!

February 21, 1999 - Classic Haribo, 205 kms

Dear Bill
This race is well know to riders for it's sweets. Haribo is acompany which makes sweets and as a special prize it gives the winner ofthe race his weight in sweets. I did this race last year and finished 7th,it's reasonably flat. There are 4 KOM sprints and 1 hill about 20km togo which isn't categorized but is still hard.

The sun was shining and it was 17 degrees. Great weather for arace. We headed pretty well the same direction all day, the wind was eitherbehind us or a x-wind. After the first KOM sprint (54km) a group of 10riders got away including myself and Stuart O'Grady. The peloton caught usafter about 10km then the attacks kept coming and within 5km after beingcaught Stuart and I were away in another break. There was 13 of us and westayed at a 55 second gap for about 20km then after the feed the gap grewto 1:30min. At the 2nd KOM I got on the front at the bottom and set myown tempo to survive hoping that no-one would pass me until I was at thetop. Stuart attacked with 800m to go and I was expecting the others to passme but no-one so I looked behind and it had split. The break was in groupsof 2 and 3 riders. Stuart went over the top of the hill with Vinakourov (Casino) and they had a 10 sec gap to a group of 5 which I was in. After5km the break was all back together and Vinakourov had come back. Stuartwas 15 sec in front of the break by himself. We now had a 5 min gap to thepeloton and I was starting to think about the finish. I grabbed for mybidon to take a quick drink when the 2 guys in front of me got tangledtogether and crashed! I had no where to go but over the top. I hadforgotten how painful it is when you crash. I was the first guy up out of 4but my bike was not in good shape. By the time I was ready to ride againthe break was 2 min in front and my race was over!

Stuart went on to win the race in a 4 up sprint and I just finishedin the bunch. Nothing major happened to me, just a bit of skin off and somebruising. My form is great so I am quite disapointed, but as I always say"When something bad happens, something good is waiting around the corner."There's plenty more races to go this year, my next one is Het Volk inBelgium.

February 14, 1999 - Tour of the Mediterranean

Dear Bill
Well I'm back in France and the weather is just as expected. Coming fromthe hot summer in Adelaide it didn't take long for me to catch a cold. Mybody doesn't like the sudden change of weather and my house mate Marcel wassick when I arrived so it was definitely on the cards for me to get it. Iam happy to be back though as a new season is starting. New seasons arealways exciting because everything is fresh and new. My body and mind isfresh and recovered from last season, the team is fresh and recovered fromlast season and there are some new faces in the team aswell which cansometimes freshen things up. All the bike equiptment and clothes are new indesign which is always exciting aswell. So I arrive in France with all mynew motivation and team gear and I go and get sick! That's life!

Normally when you are sick you can and should miss the race you areabout to do but I don't want to miss the first race of the season and startthe season behind. So I'm on antibiotics and vitiman C and have got myfingers crossed that it goes away soon.

Stage 1 - 140 kms:

The weather was better today. It was about 10 degrees and the sunwas shining. We're lucky really because the rest of France is covered insnow. It was also windy today and because we were changing direction allday it was coming from all directions. Mostly from the front which was goodbecause it kept the bunch together to the bottom of the final climb....MontFaron! It's 8km long and really steep from 5km to go. I just rode at myown tempo and finished in a group with most of the sprinters that are inthe race. I'm not sure what position but there were definately more groupsbehind. So I think my form is good apart from my cold, a confident start tothe tour.

Stage 2 - 110 kms:

A nice short one today. We had 3 climbs to get over, the first wasabout 8km long but not steep, the second was similar, a bit longer but lessin gradient than the first and the last was about 3km long bit it was 8kmto go. Fortunately it was a block head wind most of the day and Poltiswapped off so it kept everyone at bay. About 30km to go there was a shortsection of x-wind and Credit Agricole attacked. I thought I'd have a peekover the top of the bunch to see who was away and there was a small groupof 4. In the group was Stuart O'grady, Henk Vogels, Magnus Backstead andChris Jenner...that's right, 4 riders from the same team were about 10seconds in front of the bunch. They stayed there for about 10km then thegap opened up to about 30 seconds but as the bunch approached the finish itstarted to speed up and we reeled in the break. So it was going to be myfirst bunch sprint for the season. It was hard to hold position because ofthe head wind, the bunch was switching from one side of the road to theother. 1km to go I was blocked in and was about to call it a day, whenthere was a strong x-wind from the right so as the bunch went to the leftit gave me room to make a last minute dash up to the front. 300m to go Ifound myself 10th wheel but the bonus was I was on the wheel of my teammate. He made his way to the front with me in the wheel. There was a cornerabout 150m to go. I went into it 4th position, looked up, saw the line andmanaged to get 2nd. The other sprinter in my team was with me and finished3rd. So not a bad day for team BIG MAT. Tomorrow should be a bunch sprintas well, so now I have a bit more confidence maybe I can go 1 better!

Stage 3 - 88 kms:

Today we had 2 stages, this one and the teams time trial in theafternoon. Our team tactics before the start were to try and get someoneaway because eveyone would be trying to stay fresh for the time trial. TeamPolti were controlling it again and there was a slight head wind. My teammate Guilleme Auger attacked with about 45km to go and 2 riders ( 1 PostSwiss and 1 Vlandereen 2002 ) went with him. After about 10km they had 2minutes. The break went to 2:45min before other teams started to helpchase. I stayed at the front incase it all came together again. It didn't!Auger attacked the other 2 riders 25km to go and finished on his own,1minute in front of Casino's Laurie Aus and Baldato bought the bunch in for3rd. I finished 9th, I was too far back but I'm still happy.

Stage 4 - TTT 19 kms:

The team morale is great at the moment. Second and Third yesterdayand a win today. The teams time trial for us wasn't important. We didn'thave our time trial bikes or special wheels, we just had to finish in thetime cut. We did with ease, We finished 14th out of 21 teams. CreditAgricole won the stage in 20:24min, we did it in 22:05min.

Stage 5 - 220 kms:

Today was one of those days! It was a block head wind for the first60km so the bunch cruised at 25km/hr. It felt like we were going no where.With 60km to go it was flat out at 60km/hr. At the front of the buncheveryone was fighting for good position, I was wasting alot of energy tostay up there so I thought I'd sit back a bit.....big mistake. We turnedleft and it was a x-wind. I was caught behind a few strugglers and was inthe 2nd group. I was feeling really good and tried 3 times to get across tothe front group only to be left in between groups by myself in the convoy,then on the 4th attempt I made it across. I got back on with 15km to go.The bunch had slowed a bit but it was just enough for me to get back on. Iknew the finish today because we did it last year. We make a right handturn 1.2km to go and the rest is uphill. Last year I was dropped with manyothers on the hill. As we made our way to the finish I started to recoverso I started to move up. I turned onto the hill about 50th wheel, the bunchwas going flat out now so I could only pass a few riders at a time. With400m to go we made another small turn to the left. Some of the guys infront paused and I had a run so I passed about 20 riders. With 200m to gowe made another right hand turn then it's flat from there. I hit the lastcorner about 20th wheel. I can't really say that I started my sprint thenbecause I was already sprinting, let's just say I went from 97% to 100%. Ipassed about 12 riders and finished 9th. I'm pretty happy with that resultconsidering what I'd gone through to get there. The winner was Max vanHeeswyk (Mapei), 2nd was Jan Kirsipu (Casino), 3rd was Fabio Baldato (Ballan) and Stuey was 4th. Maybe next year I will be aware of the windsand not get caught out. Only one more day to go!

Stage 6 - 115 kms:

Today was mostly flat. There was 1 climb 20km from the finish andthe last 1.5km was uphill. The bunch stayed together as it was tail windmost of the day. I started the last climb in the top 20, a few riderspassed me but I'm not sure where I finished. I am really happy with my format the moment. It's coming along really good. My next race is ClassicHaribo, I finished 8th there so hopefully I can go better. Log on nextMonday to find out!