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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

The Scott Sunderland Diary 2004

Brabantse Pijl, Belgium, March 28, 2004

How did I get into the early break?

Scott leads the break
Photo ©: Sabine Sunderland

The Brabantse Pijl, a 1.2 on the UCI calendar consists of a big lap of 90 kms and 6 local laps of 18.2 km. The big lap was a new one this year, starting from Zaventem and going through Leuven, Wavre, Waterloo, past the big war monument, before we got to the finishing circuit.

But the first time we came through the feed zone, we came in from another direction, and we came in very fast. We were doing about 70 km/h on a downhill, sweeping right hand bend. The soigneurs were standing in the middle of the road, and didn't quite realise how quickly we were moving. You can imagine the result: with riders going from left to the right side of the road to get their musettes. . big carnage, maybe half a dozen riders went down in a crash.

That caused a split in the group. I wasn't too badly positioned and we did the first climb on the finishing circuit, followed by the well known climb of the Alsemberg. Just on the finish line I went across to a few guys in front with Rous and Den Bakker. Then we were 17, and five more came across later so we ended up with 22.

At this time I was feeling very, very good but the break was never really going to succeed. There were three QuickSteps, three Rabos, three Lottos, three MrBookmakers and one of each other team represented. Nobody really seemed interested in keeping it going. Another group came across with Bruylandts and Baguet, then Paolini, Boogerd and Freire. We had over 30 riders.

It became really difficult for me, sitting as an individual rider with so many Rabos, Lottos and Quick.Steps. Each time one of them would attack, the others would let them ride off, so you constantly had to bridge gaps. I spent most of the time in front riding around, chasing. I've done this race so many times before and I know you just have to ride from the front. If you have to came from the back it's simply too hard; that's what happened to Bartoli.

We went hard past the finish line again, then the group with Merckx, Paolini, Boogerd went away. The whole peloton was really close and we heard that CSC was chasing. I couldn't get across to the front group and I thought I would have to wait until the next hills when CSC had come across. On the Bruineput, the group with Bartoli went and I got caught on the inside. I just came up to the back of them, but couldn't close the gap. Baldato tried with Thijs to get across later, but that was the race. I missed the two deciding breaks of the day.

I possibly did too much too early, but when I got second in 2001 I rode that way as well. Most of my teammates were tired after yesterday. I was talking to Baldato once we lost contact with the front group, and he suggested to call it a day. To be honest my morale had gone at that point and I was starting to think about De Panne on Tuesday. There's a bit of pressure on, being a home town finish for me in Zottegem!

Lots of kilometres

Over the weekend, we had two very fast races due to the good weather and no wind. This is quite unusual for Belgium. In Brabantse Pijl we were constantly above 50 km/h. If we were on bigger roads we'd have averages of 50-52 km/h. But with all the small roads, speed humps etc., it slowed it down. In the last two days, I don't think I've used my 11 so much.

It's been a big weekend, with just on 400 km in the legs. We have one day of rest then 3 days of racing in De Panne. Tuesday is 200 km, Wednesday is over 230 km, so we have a big week again. My priorities will be to try and finish well in Zottegem and on Wednesday to do a good day as well. Then I'll see how I am as far as GC goes. If I'm not in contention, then I'll do Thursday as easy as possible to try and get an extra day of recuperation before Flanders.

Last Wednesday I finished Dwars door Vlaanderen, Waregem and then rode home, so I got 250 km in. Now with 2 x 200 km and big week this week, there's a lot of kilometres being done.

The condition is good, but the form needs a little bit more work. I'm getting off the bike and within half an hour I'm recuperated. I just lack a bit of punch. If I find that in the next coming weeks, hopefully I can pull something off.

The Alessio-Bianchi team is not riding badly. Marcus Ljungqvist was up there on Saturday and got 5th, Baldato finished 10th. Fabio surely was well positioned before the crash. He was on the wheel of O'Grady and Boonen. Then O'Grady went down. Baldato was disappointed to miss out, but happy to stay upright. He's very strong at the moment; a win is close.

Having dinner
Photo ©: Sabine Sunderland

On Saturday night we all had a great, relaxed meal together. The food in the Shamrock hotel in Harelbeke is excellent. A great chef who knows what cyclists like and need. On top of that; our director Dario has a friend who owns a vineyard and he brought a few cases of wine with him. Actually we've got a stack of wine and we drink some every evening.

I really appreciate Dario Mariuzzo's style as director. Work is work and if things don't go to plan, Dario likes to look at the next day. We're all professional and old enough to know the difference. Dario is always trying to see the good side of things and has a very positive influence on the riders.

Contenders for the Ronde

There's a few really strong riders in the peloton. We saw on Saturday that Van Petegem was good and that Bettini was good, he spent a lot of time on the front. I was talking to his teammate Kevin Hulsmans, who said that his director asked Bettini why he was working so much, in the wind. "I'm doing it easy - I'm not riding hard," was Bettini's response.

Well, tell you, if he's doing that - on the hills, on the cobbles the whole day - Bettini and Van Petegem are going to be big rivals for the Tour of Flanders. It will be interesting with Museeuw too.

In the Brabantse Pijl, Boogerd could count on Freire and Den Bakker. They're riding strong too. It must be Boogerd's sixth time on the podium: twice third, twice second, and he's won it twice. I think he has this race well and truly on his calendar at the beginning of the year.

Wesemann looks a bit skinny this year. He might have lost some power for the cobbles because he doesn't seem to be going well... yet.

From now on, a few people (like the bookmakers) will start doing their odds for next weekend. I'll fill you in on my bet after the Three Days of De Panne!