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Scott Sunderland
Relaxed before the Ronde

The Scott Sunderland Diary 2000

 


Scott's Ronde van Vlaanderen

April 1, 2000

The last check in before Flanders

I have just finished lunch and will be driving over to the hotel in a while. The team will be staying at the headquarters, the Beaulieu center, in Waregem. Before dinner I have to talk to Hendrick about his race plan for tomorrow, how he wants to approach the first and second half of the race. My job: looking after our main man, keep him out of the wind, bring him to the front, etc.

It is important to have Hendrick in the first ten at the start of the cobblestone sections. For me, my first race since five weeks will be successful when I get to the second feed zone at 180 kms. Hans De Clercq and Wim Feys will take over at that moment to guide Hendrick through the second part.

Walter - the team director - told me not to do more then I should at this moment. Even if I feel good I've sort of got orders to stop at the second feeding. Next week Gent-Wevelgem (Wednesday) and Pino Cerami (Friday) are on the program.

The bikes will get checked by the mechanics as soon as we get to the hotel. I only started riding my Fondriest team bike again on Thursday, as it was at the 'panel beater' getting fixed up after the tumble in Kuurne. A complete new bike is on its way, should be here before Amstel Gold, so that will be good for the morale.

The masseur will give us a massage before the evening meal. As there is no restaurant at the Beaulieu center, we go to a small restaurant just down the road. The owner loves cycling - who doesn't in this part of Belgium? - so we get buried under mountains of pasta and other pre-race food.

Tomorrow morning, breakfast at 7.30 (pasta, cheese, ham, yoghurt, muesli, etc. and not to forget Nutella Chocolade spread for the Belgian guys who couldn't start a race without emptying the whole pot). Walter always takes the time to sit down with us and go over the parcours again. Tactics, jobs, are all discussed once more.

And then, on the road to Brugge for the start. 'See ye' after !

The race - first t

My first race back in 5 weeks, with this atmosphere, it was great! Thousands of people at the start in Brugge, everybody excited and standing in awe of all those great cycling stars, cheering on Museeuw, Van Petegem, Zabel, etc. as they signed on for the biggest classic race in Flanders. People were yelling out to me, wishing me good luck for the day, telling me how they hope that I'll only find good luck on my road from now on, it was just fantastic to be there again. And, one thing I hoped for, contradicting all weather reports, cool but dry weather... no wonder I had the right feeling to begin with.

We started off in the typical way: the riders not expecting to get to the finish tried to get away in early breaks, to show themselves, forming small groups for as long as possible. Eric De Clercq (Collstrop) even went on a brave, but impossible mission.

The tempo quickly went up after the first feed (110 kms) as we headed for the first section of cobble stones (at 117 km). This strip of cobblestones, without doubt a remainder of the days of Roman rule, was made even more dangerous by one of the leading cars. The vehicle had dragged its oil sump over the middle, highest part of the road and had lost its motor oil. This caused serveral of the leading guys to crash seriously. This also gave the following cyclists another obstacle to negotiate in their rush to get past... people yelling out, riders jumping to the side of the road. I followed some guys through the muddy edge to avoid crashing into the ones lying crumpled up on the stones.

Scott chases after a puncture
Van Dijck was kept neatly out off the wind. I brought him to the front when necessary, as there were a lot of sneaky turns onto small roads. As I was making the tempo on the Wolvenberg, leading into the 3km cobblestone section at Mater, I looked behind to find that there were only two Lotto guys and a Lampre rider left in my wheel...."Bloody hell, where did I lose Van Dijck" went through my head. Keeping your team leader in the wheel is a bit hard when you are riding 200 meters in front. As it turned out, as always, it was for the best. The leading riders caught us, I picked up Hendrick and brought him to the following cobblestone climb, the Molenberg, sitting comfortably in the front of the leading group.

From the Molenberg onto the Paddestraat (160 kms), a nasty 2500 meter long pavé road - Unfortunately I punctured. I was able to get a wheel but it was impossible to get back to the main group. I found myself in a small bunch of 20 riders, we chased hard for 20km... at this stage my two weeks training reserves started to wear thin rapidly. As Walter Planckaert stressed the fact that I should leave the race before I was digging too deep, I decided to call it a day at the second feed

I got into the van, knowing it was the right decision. I had done my job. As Walter said when we discussed the course of the day, I had surprised him, and even myself by the way I rode after 5 weeks without one preparation race. The showers still had hot water when I got to the finish., another good thing! The facilities were excellent, we could even continue to follow the race on tele while getting into some clean gear.

After the race, Hendrick told me he felt "empty" on the Muur of Geraardsbergen. Hendrick's main problem, according to me, had been the liquid food he had chosen for the last half of the race. (He finished 46th).

Tchmil was without doubt the strongest and smartest rider of the day. I think his victory was very much deserved, as riding away from the other favourites like he did, holding his lead with a determinned and unseen strength... it was just awesome to watch. Andrei proved today, that at the age of 37 you shouldn't be overlooked or underestimated. He has been winning his biggest races since he turned 30.

Next on my program : Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday