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91st Tour de France - July 3-25, 2004
Scott Sunderland's Tour Diary
Cyclingnews' longest contributing diarist Scott Sunderland is taking part in his second Tour de France in 2004 as part of the versatile Alessio-Bianchi team. Scott's role will be mainly to help Pietro Caucchioli, but he also hopes to have a few opportunities for stage wins. Once again, he'll be providing his highly experienced viewpoint on the Tour, its riders and anything else.
Magnus gets away
Tour de France Stage 5, France, July 8, 2004
Except for the well deserved turnaround for Stuy, not much happened today really. There were a couple of attacks at the start and after 16 km it was practically all over. Dekker made the first attack and that got closed down quickly. Then the group went with Casar, O'Grady, Piil and Voeckler, and Bäckstedt went across. A few more tried to close the gap and I was going with all of them. If there was going to be 10-12 riders I wanted to be there. But we kept getting closed down because US Postal and T-Mobile didn't want to let any bigger group go away.
Then everything just calmed down and we let it go. The sprinters tried to wind it up but everyone kept falling off! Today there were 11 riders treated by the race doctor, but double or triple that number hit the deck. Over the last three days not many riders have missed out crashing.
I've been lucky, but got to do some cross country riding today when that big crash happened near the finish and almost took out a few spectators in the process. Apparently it was Nardello and Guerini talking to each other and they got caught up and brought a dozen riders down.
There was another one before that on a descent that went down on the inside of the corner. My teammate Fabio Baldato got caught in it and fell on the same side as yesterday, so he opened up his fresh wounds again. So the break went away and US Postal got on the front and rode alone and everyone seemed ok with that. Because it was head/crosswind, it was pretty easy to sit on the wheels. Euskaltel, Phonak and Illes Balears were wasting a great deal of energy keeping their men out of the wind! I guess they have more to lose than the rest of us so I can understand it.
Generally it turned out to be a pretty ordinary day and we had our rain jackets on for most of the day. It was just a matter of keeping warm, eating well and surviving for another day. Once the break got out to 15 minutes, it proved too far to pull it back.
Just before we came into the last kilometre today, we came out of a roundabout and we had to take it really easy and accelerate slowly. It was so slippery! I don't know what's on the roads or our tyres or what, but it's not making it much fun.
Having Magnus up there was great. This was really a day for Magnus. He was wanting to do something because he hasn't been feeling that flash for the last few days, and into a headwind he is always quite strong. He was geed for it but he's not 100 percent and he knew that. It was unfortunate that he couldn't finish it off in the sprint.
It's not so important to be fourth on GC at this stage but at least it means we have the team car up there. The team is healthy and intact - apart from Baldato crashing yesterday and today - and overall it looks very good for us.
Supporters en route
Probably the most exciting thing of all today was that we had some supporters along the road. The other day we had them sharing a beer with us but today we had some female supporters, who were looking a bit cold and wet. They decided to warm us up a bit and showed us everything from the navel up! We all were very appreciative of the gesture.
We've got another day like this tomorrow but we're going the other direction. We'll have a tailwind for the first half of the race and then it's meant to turn from the south east to the north east, which will be a headwind for the last half of the race. That will bring in cooler temperatures and thunderstorms.
It's going to be another long ride tomorrow!