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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

The Scott Sunderland Diary 2004

Racing to the sun in Paris-Nice

Stage 7 - March 13: Digne-les-Bains - Cannes, 185.5 km

Finally, some sun!

It was tough today. We had a headwind in a few places which made it hard, and sometimes we were more or less in the gutter on the climbs. It was really warm at the start, but it was cooling off as we dropped down off the first and second cat. climbs after it became overcast.

At the beginning of the stage, Dekker wound it up and took a flyer at kilometre zero. So Jens Voigt went straight after him, full gas! I was in eighth or tenth wheel, everybody was chasing behind and it was on for young and old for the first 10 km or so. It was pretty hard for CSC to control so they had to get one rider up there in the breaks, which meant Gerolsteiner and Fassa Bortolo had to keep it under control a bit. Jaksche just had to mark the GC guys.

After we went over the first 3rd Cat. climb, it was the idea between there and the 1st Cat. to get away. I jumped around a few times, and eventually five or six guys went up the road. I got across to them, but the problem was, Bobby Julich was there! Gerolsteiner and Fassa Bortolo chased us and brought it back. I went in another attack, which was unsuccessful. Then Pietro Caucchioli went and Postal closed it down. Then we came onto the 1st Cat. climb (Col d'Ayen) and just before it, Dekker went away with a couple of other guys, with another couple chipping across.

We had a lot of headwind at that point, and the peloton just slowed. CSC was riding tempo. trying to keep it under control as there were some dangerous GC guys up there. All of a sudden it really started to move. Jens Voigt and Bobby Julich gave it full whack, and we came to a hairpin and Jaksche got off the front! Rebellin had to go after him and they got across to the front group. They stayed away until after the hill sprint. That forced US Postal to ride all the way up the climb. Good tactics there by CSC.

It wasn't a very steep climb but it was tough to keep position and out of the wind. There was even a bit of gutter action in certain parts.

I'd been feeling great up until we hit the descent, and was always in the first 20-30 on the climbs. I think I just got a bit hungry or cold, but I ate something and my legs just felt like rocks on the next 1st Cat. climb (Bourigaille). I just couldn't go. I had to let go. I didn't want to, but I didn't have a choice.

I started to come good before the top of the climb but it was too late of course. There were no other groups around. The worst thing about it was the other group behind me was 5-6 minutes back. There were only five guys near me, so we swapped off for the last 50 km coming home. I possibly did it harder than I would have if I'd been in the peloton.

The descent of the Tanneron was very technical, although the little one just before it is even worse because the roads are as rough as. It's a really dangerous section. We did see the motorbike still lying there on the Tanneron. I don't know if it was a TV moto or what sort it was.

Bravo Vino

As for Vinokourov - oh man! Do you know how hard that last 4 km was? We were bowling on at 45 km/h on the big roads coming into Cannes, and then we had to turn left at the roundabout and reached the sea side. It just reduced us to 25 km/h. Then we sat on 32 km/h all the way to the finish, swapping off all the way. Vinokourov certainly earned it. He must have been riding alright today.

It does help when you're not worried about your classement. You are a bit more relaxed and come up and do your bit when you're ready. The other GC guys don't give it to you of course, but they're not really that worried about you.

Finally some sun

We were very lucky today and got away without being wet, even though it cooled right off during the day. The general feeling in the peloton was a bit brighter because of the sun, even though it was a hard day. There were a lot of smiles and it was a bit more positive. Finally the race to the sun has given us a bit of good weather!

Tomorrow

As for tomorrow, woah...I dunno how it will go. There'll probably be attacks going from the gun, and riders going up the road early in the piece. If I can, I'll try and go away early. Purely to get in the front and ride my own tempo. Once I'm caught and if I'm dropped, I'm dropped. Sitting in and hoping for a good day is not going to do me much good.

Pellizotti was sore from yesterday so he wasn't good at the end as well. Everybody on our team will try to do what they can and take chances in breaks, and hopefully they can pull something off. There's not going to be much in the way of tactics tomorrow. It's just a hard day.

So far, so good

I'm happy with Paris-Nice so far. My condition is good and more importantly, my recovery is good. Each day I'm recovered enough to jump in the attacks all the time. I haven't been fortunate enough to get in a break, because they're only allowing a maximum of two or three riders to go. There are that many guys trying to get away that it's hard to be one of those two or three.

I feel tired at the end of each stage but not wrecked. With a bit of rest after Paris-Nice, things should shape up for the classics. I'll have a week and a half training before Waregem, although I still have to find out whether I'm doing Milan-San Remo.

That's all for now. Until tomorrow!

Stage 7 results