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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

The Scott Sunderland Diary 2004

One of those days

Tour de Suisse Stage 6, June 17, 2004

Today was one of those days. I felt good after I woke up and was all geed for the day. The weather was nice and the clouds had cleared completely away. It was a little cold on the descent of the last climb, but really it's the first time I've sweated so much this year!

We rolled out of the blocks fairly calmly, but it didn't take too long for things to get going. There was a rise of about 2 km before we descended to a lake in the first 15-20 km. The boys started to chip off the front and that group of five got away and stayed there.

So while those riders were up there, Saunier Duval took on the task of tempo riding until the first climb. I felt comfortable on the Sustenpass. It was hot, but I could move up and keep my position with no problems. Then for a while Bettini got on the front to ride for Sinkewitz, but it didn't last too long and he pulled over. Then a couple of Sauniers rode tempo over the top. The descent was really rapid and we were hitting 100 km/h. There were some nice long straights with wide, easy hairpins.

I got some drink and food and started on the second climb and my legs turned to wood. You get that sometimes. It was so bad I just couldn't bite through it so I lost contact. I tried to keep going but simply couldn't do it. It was more or less game over by the time I got going. I had Bortolami, Baldato, Commesso, Casagrande and Cancellara with me - we never had any time checks so I just said to myself, this is where I'll be.

I did some thought control and decided it would only be a waste of energy to feel annoyed with myself for not being in front - told myself: hey Scott, shit happens!

So I decided to see it as good training and that way at least I could enjoy the scenery a bit. It's a rare opportunity on such a stage - it's some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe. Normally when you're going downhill at 100km/h you're concentrating on the wheel in front of you. Uphill is much the same, so you don't really get a chance to have a squizz at the landscapes around you.

There were so many people on the climbs today, and about 80 percent of the spectators were cyclists. They'd all ridden up there on the day. It was great to see how much support this race has even on a week day. It definitely shows the organisers are doing something right in terms of publicising the event. It's improved quite a bit since 5 or 6 years ago.

As I was coming up the last climb, I just thought about it - the opportunity is now there in the coming days to go on the attack. Now I've got that liberty, I'll be chasing that tomorrow or Saturday. Hopefully I'll be successful going up the road to right till the finish.

As I said before, I do feel OK but just had that really bad moment today. And really, It's the first time I've done such a climb since the Giro last year! I've not had a chance this year. I'm an all-rounder and not a the greatest climber in the peloton but I do climb very well when I'm in good shape. In the Tour there's too many highly specialised climbers, so for me it's better to do what I'm the best at and thus concentrate on the stages with the smaller climbs.

My teammate Pietro Caucchioli had a good day and was only 30 seconds behind Ullrich at the top of the last climb. But on the descent he got cold and started cramping, so he relaxed a bit. Bobby Julich caught him and he finished about two minutes down on Ullrich. This is only his second race - only did Tour of Luxembourg before - so he's on track for that stage win in the Tour.

Coming up

Tomorrow we have a third cat. climb after 30 km, then it's relatively flat until the uphill finish, which is at the border of Liechtenstein. The day after is another big day. We have a long first cat. climb, but it's not too steep. It's a good 90 km from the finish so anything could happen there - a break could go away or a few teams will keep it together. There's actually a small fourth cat. climb towards the finish too. If there's still opportunities there, I might get lucky and get away.

Let me tell you it hasn't been easy to get in the breaks. For the first 60-70 km it's bang, bang, bang. A break goes, it gets caught back and another one goes. For the last few days my teammates have been trying hard to go with the right break. But every time one of us was away, it was brought back. Because there's so many attacks, you have to go with the feel of it. There's a lot of split-second decision making. Bettini has been trying too and he hasn't been successful either. Hunter's been the one to get lucky twice and he has the legs to finish it off as well.

I think if they started showing the beginning of the race on TV, people would know what it takes to get in a break. When your job is to get in the breaks or to close a break down you're spent at the end of the day. When you're doing that every day, after a week you're just wasted. It would be interesting for the cycling fans to show that first hour of racing on TV.

I can only be positive about it. I don't feel wasted from today. I just had that bad 4-5 km and will see how I go tomorrow.

Ullrich seems strong. Caucchioli told me he looked very good today. Bobby Julich wasn't there at the end, but Cioni and Totschnig were. And hats off to Guerini, who has done an awesome job for Ullrich. The other day on the climb he just rode 3 km flat out and had the whole peloton in a line. He was there again today when it counted, so he should have booked his ticket for the Tour.

Until tomorrow,