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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

The Scott Sunderland Diary 2004

Racing to the sun in Paris-Nice

Stage 6 - March 12: Rasteau - Gap, 173.5 km

A minute's silence

We had a minute's silence before the start out of respect for the victims of the Madrid train bombings, which shocked a lot of people. It's been a bit of conversation topic in the peloton as it's pretty close to home for some of us, and it could happen in a major city anywhere.

Things have been better

Well, today was the day and I just came up a bit short on the hills, mainly because I haven't done any. There was the Tour of Med and then I was sick for three weeks, so really did nothing specific in the hills. It wasn't a great day for the team either, as Pellizotti was in the front group and crashed, and he's opened his hip and arm up pretty badly. If he could have got straight on the bike and got on the back of the bunch, he could have not lost too much time, but his hip has a pretty nasty contusion on it now.

Also, my roommate Marcus Ljungqvist had a fever last night and he couldn't even get to the start. He woke up, had some breakfast and went straight back to bed. Rene Jørgensen pulled out yesterday with tendonitis, the same as happened to him on day 2.

We started off in moderate temperatures, around 8-9 degrees. But Once we got going, the winds were cold. We had a ball-tearer of a start because everybody was nervous. We were right across the road, spread out in case we came up to the crosswinds. Nobody wanted to get caught out like yesterday. It went like that for 10 km and turned into a headwind, which we were into for practically the whole day. That calmed things down a bit until the first climb, when one rider took off and we let him go. A second rider went on the descent and the peloton decided to let them bang their heads into the headwind.

CSC relinquished their grip on the race a little bit and let the gap get out to six minutes, so then the other teams like Liberty Seguros and Rabobank took control and started riding, as they wanted to go for the stage win. That made everyone nervous coming into the second climb, and there was a lot of ducking wand weaving, pushing and shoving. I was OK for the first few kilometres but couldn't maintain the rhythm. I got popped about 4 km from the top. I dropped back and thought maybe keeping within the cars I could get back on. But the front group split again, and we couldn't get back on again. We just went to the start of the last climb and tempoed up it and then down to the finish. At the top we all put on our rain jackets and I had a squiz at the mountains around us - there's a lot of snow around!

We were lucky that the rain (mostly) held off. We are expecting rain for tonight and tomorrow and it's going to make it a mega hard day. It's already a hard day. Four third cat's, two first cat's and a second cat. climb in 186 km. It's also a very windy road, whereas today was not that bad. It's not going to be an easy day tomorrow, that's for sure.

Today we were riding constantly up the front for Pellizotti for the classement. Now that's gone wayward we'll have to try and get one of us up there in a breakaway for a stage.

Still feeling OK

My legs are good, I just missed the climbing preparation coming into the race. I wasn't supposed to be here in the begriming, but I'm here and I'm trying not to make excuses. In all it's good training for the coming races.

That elusive sun...

Once again it was a very cold day. Everybody is pretty certain we won't be seeing any sun unless we head off on holidays. You might see a bit if you miss your flight on Sunday and it comes out on Monday morning (which would be typical).

The guys in the peloton are agreed that it has been a really hard Paris-Nice. It was a hard parcours to begin with, but added to the wind and the cold, now we're going to get rain. A lot of riders are going to be smashed and come out sick. If it's raining on Sunday, they won't be getting too many at the finish.

Cookie's sick and he didn't start this morning. It's bloody hard for the sprinters now. Tomorrow's going to be a grovel from start to the finish. This is where we earn our money.

Until then, it's massage and dinner time.

Stage 6 results