The Scott Sunderland Diary 2000

July/August in Spain (August 1-10) - Melting moments

Saturday the 29th of July, the team met up in the departure terminal of the Brussels' airport. Not everybody was keen on leaving the family behind for two weeks but I was cheerful, knowing I was finally going to be able to ride my bike in the sun. The bad weather in Belgium was just getting to me at this stage and I needed some warmth and light to charge my batteries.

The airport was crowded of course. During the first month of school holidays we hardly had dry days so everyone seemed to have booked last minute tickets wanting to get out of this depressing place. A Sabena check-in-girl started up her computer at one of the desks and called our team manager Walter over. An attentive French lady had seen the gesture and jumped in after Walter. I took place just in front of her and she pointed out to me, quite agitated, that I should take the spot behind her and her husband.

"I'm with him," I pointed to Walter.

"Ok then," she answered, "you can go in front" with clear disapproval in her voice.

I pointed to the group of 8 Palmans-Ideal riders who were waiting patiently on the side. "So are they" I explained.

I can tell you, I've never seen a more disappointed, annoyed look on anybody's face. The boys smirked and got in line, piling on their bikes and suitcases. It took us close to twenty minutes to get everything checked that time lighting bolts coming from the woman's eyes were hitting us fair in the back.

The first race on Spanish soil was GP Getxo, a 1.4 in the area of Bilbao. Nothing much happened, the race went well for our team, we always managed to have a couple of our team in the breaks. Bruylandts went with the final one and finished 4th. We jumped in the car after the race and drove 250kms to Valladolid, north of Madrid.
Francisco Mancebo
Photo: © AFP

The Vuelta a Castilla-Leon went as planned. First we had a time-trial, which was a total shock to the system due to the incredible + 40C heat. The following days were the same. The Palmans team wasn't the only one suffering; the northern European teams in particular were doing it tough. The German Nurnberger team, the Dutch Farm Frites boys, the Swiss Post team, they were all struggling to acclimatise. The results were great for our team though. We had a stage win, a third overall, the mountain jersey and the points jersey!

I was very happy with how I was progressing, getting stronger and stronger every day. Being able to play a significant part in Dave Bruylandts' 3rd overall ranking was rewarding. Mancebo won the Vuelta in the last stage, on the last climb. The climb was 6 kilometres long; all the riders were using a 39/25 to get to the top. His Banesto teammate Osa took 2nd in the GC.

We then moved on to Madrid for the Classica a los Puertos de Guadarrama (1.4). It was still hot but the area was greener in the mountains compared to the dry planes around Valladolid. A lot of fresh riders, e.g. Escartin, Zulle and Jalabert were there to start their first race after the Tour. It was a tough field and a tough course with 4 third category climbs and 2 first category climbs. The race itself was very aggressive with 17 riders going clear on the second first category climb. I missed that break and the peloton was unable to catch them back before the finish. Mancebo was victorious again, beating Fernando Escartin in the sprint. Shower, a couple of cold drinks and we drove to Burgos, about 250 kms away.

The Vuelta a Burgos (2.1), as you probably saw, was great. An international high standard race with all the Tour de France stars at the start. I rode a fantastic race. I had very good legs; they felt better and better as the race went on. Burgos lies at one thousand meters of altitude and the dry heat welcomed us again. Four days of racing in temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius tends to wear you out but it felt to me as if the race should have been a few days longer. At the start of day three the temperature was up to 42C. During one of the calmer moments that day I was talking to Lance Armstrong. I commented on how hot and dry the heat was just there.

"That's because we are at one thousand meters altitude," Lance answered, while looking at the altitude meter on his watch.

I was impressed: "how warm is it then?" I asked.

"44c," he replied reading the figures on his computer.

"What other data have you got there?" I wondered, thinking Lance had more gadgets than a Swiss army knife!

"Oh, the usual, heart rate monitor and so. Sometimes I think I'm lucky not to crash while playing around with all my toys," Lance laughed.

In the Vuelta a Burgos I took a third and a second. Although I was pleased with the way I rode, it took a few glasses of wine with dinner, to wash down the disappointment of missing out on winning the last stage by a few centimetres.

My son San was a bit sad because his dad wouldn't bring the trophy home. He really thought I had won and, according to my wife, was jumping up and down in front of the television. I felt bad about that but his excitement was triggered again easily when I spoke to him on the phone that evening. I told him I had bought the Piketon game for his Game Boy...Well, it had the same result as if I had have won that trophy...isn't life great at 4 !?