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The Scott Sunderland Diary 2002
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
During the first stage of the 4 Days of Dunkerque it became clear that the two steps forward I took during Circuit des Mines were followed by one step back. This often happens when you are looking for good racing form.
I simply couldn't scratch myself and had to let go of the group in which I had been suffering like mad in the crosswinds alongside Planckaert, Gaumont, Elli, a couple of Collstrop-Palmans guys; some big names had their different reasons - sore knees, etc. for being where they were; in the back and not in the main group.
I had been feeling squeamish for a couple of days, had stitches on the right side of my abdomen and generally felt absolutely shithouse. The reason for this was the stomach bug I picked up during or right after Circuit des Mines. For a moment, the pain in my gut was that bad, I feared chronic appendix. The doctor diagnosed an intestinal virus. Not much to be done about that, but left me too weakened for Dunkerque.
The laws of energy, action and reaction did not work for me anymore. I stomped on those pedals like a madman but I didn't go anywhere; Newton's laws didn't make one bit of sense.
That did it, the proverbial drop that made the bucket overflow fell and my morale was far below freezing point. I called Sabine to come and pick me up that evening but before I left I sat down with Kim Andersen, my team director, to talk about different matters.
Well, I can tell you, the way Kim Andersen handles things; that's what makes the difference between a good director sportive and a lousy one! Kim virtually transformed into a sports psychologist and his words, coloured by his own valuable and substantial race experience, put my mind at ease. He told me to stop beating myself up for not being in competition; to get some rest, start back training when I felt was ready and look towards July, August, and September instead of trying to force things right now.
Of course I knew all this myself, but sometimes it's good to hear it from someone else, especially from your boss. By the time Sabine arrived, the smile was back on my face and I felt an intense relief, my mind was put at ease and I knew where the new direction would be leading. We had some great laughs on the way home, with SaŽn being the little, cheeky clown he can be.
So I rested and spent quality time with the family. We visited Serge Baguet, who was sitting at home, fuming about being injured (suffered a muscle tear in Amstel Gold) and not able to continue his preparation for the Tour de France in the way he planned.
Our families had a BBQ together, went out for a meal another day and changed ideas on different things, from blood type diets to cars. Serge and I discovered we both share the same blood group: type O+. In a book - which by the way, was also used as guide-line for the diet for the CSC team last year - it says that red wine is "healing" to the O blood type...you can guess how we put the theory into good practise; but I think we went past the healing effect. We had a good time anyway!
After I got the stomach thing dealt with, but still not 100% I got on the bike and started training. I have been on the bike for three days now and feel OK. This morning, Peter Van Petegem didn't meet up with us: he's in bed with a stomach virus!
Mind over matter
When you have gone through a long period of injury or sickness, it is important to have the head right at the moment you re-enter competition. You need to be sure you have healed completely and have finished your preparation schedule, mentally and physically.
I don't know the exact circumstances, but judging from what I read in the newspaper, Ullrich getting caught with a few glasses of booze too many in his system was a way of letting off some steam, a way of dealing with his frustration resulting from his knee-problem and not getting ready in time for the Tour. A lot of people would have been outraged by that news; wondering how such a star can stumble.
But, I can assure you; most athletes do now and again. Remember, we're only human...although, I wonder about some.
For Jan Ullrich, at that moment, it was just an unlucky factor to constantly be in the public's eye. I do wonder why the press has to jump onto things like that and blow them out of proportion - and yes, he made a mistake mixing alcohol and Porsches. (I let Sabine drive home after the BBQ at Serge's)
"A man is made great, not by his successes, but by the way he overcomes adversities."
I can only state that Ullrich is a great cyclist, and that he is a big champion. And that in fact, training and competing is the easy part; the hardest thing in top-sport is to stay healthy and injury free.
Tour of Belgium
Kim told me he has got me on the start list for the Tour of Belgium (2.3, 22-26 May). Again, I'm pretty eager to get back into it. My parents-in-law live in Oostende, on the Belgian coast, where the prologue is held and the start of the first stage is situated. Sabine and SaŽn will spend a couple of days with her parents and that way I can gently roll into competition with them close-by.
I hope for good weather as the first couple of stages through this flat coastal countryside don't have the ideal profile for me but without wind it's going to be quite nice. The last stage is finishing in Marche-en-Famenne, and has a hillier parcours. I'm already looking forward to it! It will be ideal preparation for the Tour of Luxembourg (2.2, 30 May - 2 June).
Talk to you some time after!