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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

The Scott Sunderland Diary 2003

Swinging into the end of the season

Belgium, September 3, 2003

On the start ramp in the Giro
Photo © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Editor's note: The last time we heard from Scott was at the end of the Giro d'Italia, where he finished 22nd (following the eventual disqualification of Raimondas Rumsas) after a very solid three weeks of riding for his teammates and for his own chances of a stage win. It was Scott's first three week tour after his 1998 accident, and despite going in with no real ambitions on GC, was eventually given that role by his team director.

His racing plans at the end of the Giro were cut short by sickness, and he took the rest of June and most of July off before pinning on a race number again. Now he's back in business, and keen to do well in the latter half of the season.

Six weeks off without racing after the Giro was a bit disappointing because I had so much form but no races to use it. I had a bit of a rest, spent time with my family and swung back into it in July before the Tour de la Region Wallonne. But then I had some back problems, and things weren't going smoothly. The car trip home from HEW Cyclassics Cup Hamburg put my back out and it took a lot longer to get right than any other time...thanks to Amstel '98. Doing World Cup races with a bad back puts a bit more strain on you.

Even through the Giro, Kenneth from Copenhagen [Frank Høj's chiropractor] had to come down and treat me, and he got it right. Since I got back I've been visiting an osteopath in Waregem and a chiropractor, but it's taken a bit longer than I'd hoped. Now it's feeling alright. Robin Taylor is doing a lot of work with me and it's been good because she's been able to do a lot of work on me every day.

I'm looking at a really good program. Merksem, then Leuven, Fourmies, Wallonie, Isbergues. Paris-Bourges, and we're quite confident for Paris-Tours as well. Around the middle of the September we'll know the selection for the World's. Although we can qualify with 12 riders Australian coach Shayne Bannan said he'll maybe only take 6, due to budget reasons. The pro riders get all the points and do all the work so that we can send a full team, so according to me if you can take 12, you take them. Even if the rider only does half the race it's experience for him, riding at the front, doing a good job. You don't see Belgium only sending six riders.

I might jeopardise my own selection again by speaking my mind, but there's a few things I don't quite understand.

As for budget reasons, they have training camps in Australia and Italy at the beginning of the year, where they invited a biomechanic and a physiologist. At the World's itself you've got VIP's and hangers on, so surely they could save a bit of money for these odd years when the World's are held outside Europe. No training camp you run is equivalent to the World's. To be there, see the race, see how it unfold...it's completely different to any other race with so many teams and the way it's ridden right down to the finish. It's a pure physical thing as it just gets harder and harder. It's experience you can't gain by not being there, and I know of this first hand, after actually riding many.

I'll worry about that mid-September. I want to get some more results for myself. I'm very positive because I always get a win each year, so hopefully it will come soon. I'm in good shape so I'm sure something is going to come in the next few weeks.

Team news

Waiting for news
Photo © Frank Rud Jensen
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I'm still waiting for fakta news. Our team manager Peter Sejer has been doing a very difficult job trying to find a team sponsor. With the economic times that are on us it's very difficult, especially in Denmark - Bjarne Riis hasn't found a sponsor either. There are teams in France and Spain that are stopping. And in Italy a lot are going to amalgamate to keep a top team together. Peter Sejer's got it against him but he's doing everything he can. We're waiting patiently and we'll have confirmation within the next few days for sure.

There is a Plan B. I'm in discussions with a Belgian team and a German team who are in a similar situation as to rounding off sponsors and I hope all that goes through. I definitely want to do one more year for sure. I'll see how next year goes for two more years. I think I've got an 'open account' and I want to put a few more wins into that account if I can. Also I want to work for teammates and team leaders. I definitely do not want to ride around in my last year like some guys. I'm not that type of person. I like to race a lot. I'd just go crazy if I was just riding around. I'm really looking forward to doing another year and I'm full of motivation.

On the other side, after doing seven major tours, three Tours de Suisse, umpteen World Cup races, all the World Championships and classics I've done, working for team leaders or riding for my own results, it's been very enjoyable.

We'll see how it goes with the team. We have a first division team with good money. If not it'll be scaled down to a 12 man Division II team with one program like in 2001. This year we've done well. We've ridden a major program and already have 2,500 points. Races like the Giro and Paris-Nice were very tiring for the team. They're not always races where you can make big points unless you're a place getter. We've done well so far this year and Kim's definitely happy with it. We've come a long way in the last few years, from racing in Denmark five years ago to racing all over the world now. We will wait and see.

Funnily enough I was talking to Mario Scirea the other day [Ed: Cipollini's leadout man, 39 yrs old] and I asked him how it was going. "Normally I was going to call it quits," he said. "But Cipo wants me to keep going to the end of the Giro next year."

If this guy can still lead out Cipo at 70 km/h when he's 40, then there's hope for me yet!