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91st Tour de France - July 3-25, 2004

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Scott Sunderland
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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.

Index of 2004 updates

Here we go again...

Tour de France Stage 6, France, July 9, 2004

At 8.30am this morning the sight from our hotel room window wasn't very inviting. The heavy rain and raging gale made you feel like getting straight back into bed and staying there till lunch. But instead, I went for breakfast, got the gear together and got in the car for a 1 hour drive to the start. By the time we arrived there the rain had stopped and the roads were virtually dry.

The wind but played havoc again for the rest of the day. That, combined with a lot of nervous riders doesn't make a good recipe for a safe ride. The first crash happened after 16km; a few guys hit the deck but luckily nobody was seriously injured.

Team tactics were the same as what they have been since the start of the Tour: four to five riders constantly try to attack or go in breaks. The team is working really well together; as one rider gets caught, another one is ready to jump. It was no different this morning. No sooner the break I went with got taken back and my teammate Bertolini attacked, with Flecha and three other riders. Quick.Step and AG2r were very active in trying to get to the break at first and later were riding at the front to bring everything together for the bunch sprint.

During the stage, I was talking to Erik Dekker. He was telling this funny story about how a journalist had asked him about his goals for the Tour before the start this morning. "Well," Erik had told him. "I want to be first on the top of Alpe D'Huez."

The journo had looked at him in disbelief and inquired about how Erik looked at achieving such a feat.

Erik: "It all comes down to simple calculation."
Journo: "Really?"
Erik: "Yes, see, if I'm last in GC the day before, I should be the first to start the time trial. With a good ride up there, I will be the first rider reaching the top of Alpe d'Huez, no?"

Erik reckons the journalist is probably thinking that poor Dekker has stayed on the bike that one year too long. We were both cracking up laughing and I dared Erik to put his hands in the air if he is indeed the first rider at the top.

With one kilometre to go it suddenly all went haywire. Crash, boom, bang and there were bodies everywhere, folded bikes and broken wheels galore. I skidded over 10 metres on my front wheel before head-butting another rider and hitting the radar fence. I got a small cut on the eyebrow and some bruises on my arm but came out relatively unharmed.

Once I untangled my bike I saw that Nicolas Jalabert was underneath, still crunched over his frame. I saw he wasn't looking good and I asked him if he was ok. "Yeah, yeah," he grunted in reply. "Just..aahhh...crushed...ahhhrr...the crown jewels on the headstem...ahhhr...will be alright...in a few minutes."

While riders were picking themselves up and riding to the finish, a thinned out peloton contested the sprint. No mechanical problems for Boonen today, and the growing pressure on his shoulders didn't weigh him down as he was impressive in the sprint.

We're at the Mercure in Angers. The room is good but the food wasn't really to my liking. Right now, while writing these last few lines, I am craving the shortbread biscuits Sabine makes; she promised she'll bring some down to Limoges next week...

And yes, I'm also thinking about tomorrow's stage. I felt good today, the legs felt good and I want to keep on going for it in the coming stages. It might just be that one of the attacks I'll go with will be the break of the day!

Until then,