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The Scott Sunderland Diary 2004
Racing to the sun in Paris-Nice
Stage 5 - March 11: Le Puy-en-Velay - Rasteau, 215 km
At least we were dry!
We did get to race today but it was very, very cold at the start: around -2 again. It had been down to -11 on the top of the first climb during the night and it still hadn't warmed up much. I was talking to one of the soigneurs who left an hour before us. When they went over it was -8, so it must have been -4 when we got up there. But we started anyway.
We were lucky that the road we had to take was quite a big, wide road. The snow was nearly all cleared to the side, and there was plenty of salt on the road so it wasn't too wet. But there were a few ups and downs on that first plateau and when we were hitting 65-70 km/h on the descents, combined with the wind chill factor...it was bloody cold. I started the day with warm tea in my bidon, and after 30 km it was like a frozen margarita! It was literally ice tea. When you're cold and you're drinking ice, it's not so good.
The boys were pretty keen to get on with it though. It was only a kilometre and the first attack came from Rabobank. For the next 40 km it was on for young and old. I thought that early move was suicide, and didn't really think they'd get away with it. Three guys is never enough: two guys is OK because it's not as much of a threat, but any more than that and it's difficult.
CSC kept riding all the time and didn't let them get out too far, as well as keeping themselves warm. Nobody was warm for the first 100 km. Finally, the descent down to 150m was painful. My hands were starting to defrost and when I was braking in the corners my fingers were starting to burn. Anyone who has had seriously cold fingers knows what I mean.
We were all really rugged up today. But when you're going full gas with all your kit on, you have to open it up on the uphills because you're sweating so much. Then the wind just cuts through you. Still, I prefer a day like today than up to 8-10 degrees and raining.
We came up to the second category climb and everyone was trying to peel off some gear. I got rid of both pairs of shoe covers, arm warmers, body warmer etc. It was still cold, but luckily we were at the "full gas part" of the race.
Mistake of the day
We had a talk in the campervan before the race and I said to the boys and the director: "Better watch the wind at the end here when we turned towards the east." So good old Scott was starting to get a bit of a stitch, and started to have a nature call on the bike...he got a bit far back on the descent, got to the bottom...bang! Big wide road, a lot of wind blowing across a 500m wide river and that was it. The peloton was in four or five bits and I was back towards the wrong end with some other guys who shouldn't have been there like Frigo, Bruylandts, Ekimov, Lotz. C'est la vie.
Vino got one up which was good for him. He must have been going at the end. It was a bit tailwind in those last 6 km, so it was to his advantage a bit.
The legs are feeling OK - not super but OK. I was fortunate that Pellizotti was up there today so he might be able to save something for his classement.
In the end we got through it. We started off with a bit of doubt, but it was good to get through it and it was a good race today. Today was the first serious climb, but Quick.Step rode good tempo then CSC took over to keep it calm. It was good to get a day's racing in. It's not much fun riding 30 km and then going to the hotel.
We're getting to the serious end of the race now, especially tomorrow with three Cat. 1 climbs. It will be the first trial to see how Jaksche and Rebellin are fairing. So far it's been a lot of team work. Because CSC were so strong, they were on the front anyway. In fact, the other riders allow you to do that if you've got the leader's jersey, which means it's not so easy to instigate that attack in the first place. CSC accelerated before someone else did and you saw what happened. It's not bad going to get five guys in the front group at the end though. They had to sacrifice a few men, and they'll be riding themselves into the ground over the next few days.
The first two Cat. 1 climbs tomorrow will probably see the guys trying to go away in breaks. After the first climb, you have 82 km before the next one. I'll see what happens - there might be an opportunity to chip away in a break to get one of us, either myself or one of the others, up there. It depends on what happens on the first two climbs, especially if other riders have the same idea!
We're expecting possible rain tomorrow, so the weather's not really changing for the better. They call it the race to the sun, but the sun has been pretty bloody milky through the clouds!