The Scott Sunderland Diary 2000

Paris Brussels/GP Fourmies, September 9-10, 2000

Well, what can I say? Yesterday, in the finale, the sun was there, the legs for sure were, I just wasn't...

Saturday was good I guess.

The day before, Sabine brought me to the Beaulieu Centre (team headquarters) in Waregem (half an hour from where I live). We all piled into the mini-van for a two hour drive to St Quentin. The evening was relaxed and at the dinner table we didn't really talk racing that much. Movies was the main issue but I also spoke to Gordon McCauley (NZ), our "stagiaire", for a while about life as a professional cyclist in Belgium.

The next morning, I got up, feeling confident and fresh, the legs felt good. Paris-Brussels was a fast race this year. Before and after the feeding the situation was very nervous and as I did not want to miss the right move, I went with all of the breaks. Palmans rode a great race, we had someone in the front at all times and Nico Eeckhout was just pumping.

I found myself sitting comfortably in the saddle in the finale and having plenty of power left in the system, I easily went with a break that looked like having a chance to stay away. Michael Bogaert, Dave Bruylandts, Missaglia, Axel Merckx... But, as we approached the last kilometre, the peloton grabbed us. Nico Eeckhout did his job in the sprint. He finished fifth. Walter Planckaert was happy as Larry when we arrived at the showers. We indeed had a great day, getting plenty of publicity as the race had been televised.

As Ben Brooks' (Linda McCartney) parents came up to visit us I went home with them and my wife instead of spending the night with the team. The drive the next morning would be just as long for them as it would be for me, so Walter was ok with it. Allan and Jenny Brooks had arrived on Friday afternoon, they flew into Brussels after they had escorted Ben to the plane in Toulouse. Ben has broken his collarbone in a race in Italy and as it looks like it will need an operation, he returned to Australia, finishing his season prematurely... Ben has for sure had his share of crap this year.

My wife made a nice salad and chicken accompanied by tagliatelle with spinach and ricotta for dinner. A couple of bottles of Italian wine (from Montepulciano) were put on the table and we finished them both off while we chatted the evening away, with cycling being the main topic. Allan and Jenny expressed their astonishment seeing the importance of cycling here in Europe. They have been to dozens of races in Australia and are amazed with the difference in style and atmosphere...every pro race is big here. My personal soigneur (read my wife) gave my legs a rub we all went to bed.

The night had been quiet and I got up with great morale and expectations. When I got to Fourmies (France), I heard I had made the right decision to go home. Most of the team looked like they had a rough night... I inquired about it and the guys told me they hadn't seen the back of their eyelids for too long.

When the team got to the hotel, there was a wedding party going on in the restaurant... a noisy one that lasted all night. In the morning, as the soigneurs got down to the breakfast table, the police were still questioning a few of the male guests... you get the picture I think. Although Walter had gone over team tactics the night before, the team was not feeling up to executing the plan which was to protect me so I'd be there for the final. As I said before, the parcours of Fourmies suits me well, I wanted to make the top three here. Things didn't go as planned.

Dave Bruylandts was taken home by his parents after being examined by the doctor. He had developed an immense lump on his butt... one out before the day even started! Hendrick Van Dijck said he felt like absolute shit and the rest of the guys looked like they had been out partying all night.

I found myself pretty much alone and that was it....when the deciding break of twenty went, I was struggling to get out of the enclosing peloton which just at that moment had to go through a bottleneck in the road. I didn't make it in time. The break went out to 2.5 minutes very quickly. Polti and Big Mat put a few guys in the front but they weren't able to put a stop to the lead. The front group took seven minutes.

Knowing the race was over, I got off when we got to the local laps. With 165 km in the legs, being as fresh as I was at the start, feeling not one bit of tiredness or pain I took a shower, waited for Sabine to come and pick me up (she had followed the race in the team car) and went home, absolutely disappointed. Although I probably should have finished the race for the kilometres, the frustration had just overwhelmed me and as Sciandri, Vainsteins, Scinto, Van Heeswijck, etc,etc took the turn to the showers, I found it better to stop the race too.

Up to the next one: Koolskamp (Belgium 1.4) on Friday. Isbergues (France 1.2) the following Sunday, which is marked with red on the calendar.

Till after,