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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

The Scott Sunderland Diary 2004

Racing to the sun in Paris-Nice

Stage 3 - March 9: La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin - Roanne, 229 km

The ones that got away

I woke up this morning, pulled back to the curtains and it was sunny, so I was happy about that. But everything was covered in frost: at 8:00am our soigneur said it was -1 degrees and it didn't get much warmer.

The start was nice and sunny, but when you were moving, you could feel a chill in the air. We didn't have to wait too long before we got warm as the attacks started after 2 km. There was only 230 km to go so obviously the guys got impatient. It was like this until 31 km, which means for 29 km we were going non-stop bang boom bang.

Finally Leon van Bon and Thomas Ziegler got away and that was it. Everyone heeded the call of nature and we were all pretty happy to let them go. We headed out again and then we just cruised along for a while, with CSC happy to let it go.

They went out to 15 minutes so at about the 80 km mark CSC put two guys on the front and started to ride pretty quick. They took 5 minutes out of them in 30 km but we went past the feed and they stopped riding. This is where the sprinters teams should have picked it up, but they didn't so it went out to 15 minutes again.

Then FDJ and Credit Agricole put one or two guys on the front and started riding with a couple of CSC's as we came into the first climbs. The time was coming down and as we started the last climb they had 8 minutes at the bottom. We took a big chunk out of them going up the climb, but Van Bon and Ziegler must have ridden a smart race and backed it off a bit, waited until the last climbs and given it full gas. With 10 km to go it was nearly 2 minutes and under the red flag it was 45 seconds. So that was it.

Hats off to the two boys out there. They did 196 km in front and that's great when you win but they can pay dearly for it in the next few days. But they did the hard yards and it was a bloody cold day. Good on 'em.

Destroying a wheel at 70 km/h

I saw some good bike handling skills from Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano. We were coming into the finish with about 3 km to go when we went over a bridge with a constant left hand bend. We were all in a line at this point. There was a T-intersection and a traffic island separating the main road and a service road. I moved out from the line into the wind because I could see another island coming. But a Fassa Bortolo guy just missed it, scraping his spokes and pedal along the gutter. Then Galdeano just went straight onto it at 70 km/h! His back wheel exploded and he must have missed the keep left sign by a bee's dick.

We were doing 70 km/h on that downhill and if he'd hit that post, we'd still be picking him up. It was a bit of a scary moment for a few guys but nobody went down. I don't know how he missed it. The Fassa guy was just shaking his head saying 'How'd I get out of that?'

Otherwise it was a good run into the finish on a nice wide road. My teammate Marcus [Ljungqvist] got up for 3rd in the sprint. Unfortunately our big loser for the day was Rene Jørgensen, who went out the back on the climb with McEwen and a few of the other boys. A few of the sprinters were suffering. Cooke was suffering (don't know why); Thor was back a fair bit; Allan Davis had his team on the front, but he wasn't able to get up there. Tom Boonen won the sprint for third and I think he must have enjoyed the "Belgian weather".

It's cold here in France

It was freezing on top of the second category climb, and we even started getting snow near the top. The pine trees on each side of us were just loaded with snow. We were lucky it wasn't fresh snow and the roads were relatively dry, although some parts were wet which cooled it off more. The communique said that some parts of the race went under 0 degrees today. On the other had it was very nice to look at and I was trying to appreciate it as much as possible and not hate the cold.

Today you had to keep warm and eat really well, because at times we were riding slowly and just burning fat. Everybody was happy we got through it, especially when it started to snow.

Tomorrow's stage

It looks to be a good one tomorrow as we've got the first of our real climbs. There's two Cat. 3 climbs at the start so that's going to be interesting. Then we have the Col de la Croix de l'Homme Mort at 96.5 km. This is a second category climb that goes for 14.5 km at 5.2% average. That's a decent climb. It's 90 km from the finish though, and there's one more Cat. 3 climb before the finish.

It's going to be cold again as we'll be up to 1,150m (today we only went up to 450m). Then we stay on a plateau around 900m for the next 60 km, so if it's like today it's going to be bloody cold. There's going to be a lot of snow up there too.

I've done Paris-nice cold like this before, in '88 with the Swiss National Team(!) We did it that year with a lot of snow and I remember it was freezing. It was one of Sean Kelly's seven wins...

Stage 3 results