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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for June 17, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
Giro finish fuels Hamilton's hopes for Tour de France
By Laurie Fullerton*
CSC-Tiscali's Tyler Hamilton is hoping that his recent second place in the Giro d'Italia is a sign of things to come for the Tour de France, where he could be one of the big challengers to his former teammate Lance Armstrong. The 29 year old has ridden in the Tour for Armstrong for the past three years, helping the Texan to three consecutive wins in the race.
"My results in the Giro have really helped my confidence in believing that I can be a contender in the Tour de France," Hamilton told Marblehead Reporter. "I really want to be a contender."
For Hamilton, the race was particularly tough as he had injured his shoulder in a fall during the 6th stage of the race.
"I spent the last 15 days of the Giro cycling with a fractured shoulder and torn tendons," said Hamilton. "But, I didn't want my competition knowing what was going on or how bad it was."
On paper, the three week long Giro is similar in difficulty to the Tour de France, especially the final week which had two hard days in the mountains (Stages 16-17) and a time trial (Stage 19). This year's Giro was 3,334 kilometres, with five uphill finishes including some very tough climbs in the Dolomites, and the race was not decided until the second last day.
When the Giro finished on June 2, Tyler was at the hospital the next day to get his shoulder checked thoroughly. His suspicions were confirmed that he had a bad injury.
"I have to say everybody I spoke to after the race, including the Italian doctors and staff at the hospital and the Italian press were impressed with my finish considering the injury," Hamilton said.
"Placing second at the Giro alone is a big result. Placing second with a fractured shoulder and torn tendon definitely impressed the Italians. They called me a fighter."
According to winner Savoldelli, Hamilton was the only thing on his mind during the final day of racing. "My only reference point was Hamilton," Savoldelli explained to the Italian press. "Every time the team car gave me my time, I said to myself he (Hamilton) should have gained more and more over me. It's getting tough for him, I just have to maintain this pace. Now, when I am (5 kilometres) from the finish line, when the route started to climb and I felt that I still could push onto my legs, I asked myself , 'And now what's he going to do?"
Hamilton also said that the supportive crowd gave him an overwhelming round of applause when he finished the race and treated him like something of a hero, even though they were, of course, rooting for the hometown hero.
"The final stage was a little nerve-wracking at the finish," wrote Hamilton of the last day of racing. "There were loads of sharp turns going left and right, over train tracks and patches of cobblestones. You really had to stay on your toes. Our mission was to keep the team up front and out of trouble. There wasn't a lot of time between me and third place, so a mishap could have had its consequences."
Hamilton said of his second-place finish that "although I went 'full gas' as they say over here, my best wasn't enough to pull off a miracle against Savoldelli. He was flying during the last week of this race, so I have to tip my hat to him. He's a super talent. I'm going to look forward to racing against him down the road. He has quite a fan club growing over here. They even have their own fight song for him. They're a rowdy bunch. But fun. They swarmed our team car after the time trial and each and everyone one of them insisted on shaking my hand. Pretty cool."
The fact that Hamilton was just one seat away from stealing the top trophy at Giro puts him into serious contention for the Tour de France. Currently, he is training in Colorado and resting his shoulder. He will need every ounce of energy to do well in the most grueling race in the sport of cycling.
While training for the Tour, Hamilton said he will be doing indoor riding to avoid the impact of the roads on his shoulder. He will have to wear an arm sling. It is estimated that an injury like his takes a month to heal. Hamilton doesn't exactly have a month before his biggest race.
"We have a great team," he added. "All of my teammates and I get along really well. As some people don't realize, cycling is a team sport. For me, I rode for three years with Lance Armstrong as a member of the team."
Now, Hamilton is the leader of the pack. He has to beat his former teammate Armstrong, as well as a very tough assembly of the best cyclists in the field, if he is to win the Tour de France.
"I have never ridden the Tour de France as a leader," he said. "I am not quite ready to say I can win it. "
*Laurie Fullerton is a journalist with the Marblehead Reporter, from Hamilton's home town of Marblehead, Mass.