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The Scott Sunderland Update 1998

The Local East Coast Australian Time is

32-year old Scott Sunderland is riding for the Belgian team Palmans-Ideal this season. He is having a wonderful start with excellent placings in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Luik-Bastenaken-Luik.

Scott has spent a lot of his professional career riding for other people. This year he has the chance within the highly supportive environment of the Palmans-Ideal team to show his class.

He is not disappointing any of us who are always keen to see his at the front.


Photo from Daniel Schamps, Paris
    Scott's Summary Data

Born: November, 1966
Place: Inverell, NSW
Nationality: Australian
Height: 1.78 m
Weight: 65 kgs

  1. April 20 - Luik-Bastenaken-Luik
  2. April 27 - Amstel aftermath
  3. June 19 - Recovering
  4. July-October - Recovering and back home.

October 31, 1998 - Recovering and back home

A lot of people have been asking me about the progress of Scott. I have not written much about it since June because I thought it better to let him recover without a lot of scrutiny. Quite frankly, I have also been worried about him. Anyway, here is an update. I saw Scott in August while I was in Europe and he was just getting back on his bike, although sporadically. He was suffering bouts of depression - post-operative and was having some trouble focusing on riding. He was going into Gent often for rehabilitation and was making some progress.

We rode about 60 kms in fairly warm conditions together, winding through the south of Flanders. It was a nice ride although Scott said that it was harder than he had been doing. At one stage, just out of Ronse as we were coming up a fairly sharp hill, he said "this is where we usually hammer right over the top in the big ring" ... but he was definitely in a 42 on that day. Towards the end of the ride he said his neck was giving him trouble. The doctors discovered a cracked vertebra at the top of the neck which is exacerbated when you are bent over riding a bike. It was giving him a lot of strife. We talked about the things mates talk about - and Scott said he felt better for it. We walked into Zottegem and had lunch prior to Scott driving to Gent for manipulation.

At that time, Palmans had resigned him on hope and he was keen to ride next year. He knew what was before him though. He would have to be doing around 3 hours a day by September and be in full training by the time he returned home in October.

Scott and Sabine returned home in the first week of October (somewhat earlier than usual). I asked him why he hadn't gone home earlier and he said he thought it was best to undergo the initial rehab in Belgium where the doctors who knew the case were.

Now back home, Scott has been very busy. He went home to Inverell (northern NSW) and has been talking to schools there about cycling and the like. Scott has always had an ambition to give his experience back to the up and coming junior riders.

Scotts' training is not yet the most important point on the agenda at the moment. To be honest, he has only been out on the bike few times as he is still doing heaps of other work concerning his recovery.

On November 3, he has an appointment with an eye specialist in Brisbane. His sight is still blurry and the right eye looks red which indicates that the bleeding behind his retina is getting worse - not better!. Laser treatment might well be necessary, Scott would rather avoid it.

Futhermore, he is still suffering headaches. His neck is tense and he still makes visits to the chiropractor. But there is some good news too and that is that his energy levels are up again and rising. He feels a lot better now he can enjoy the Australian sun and air. His moods are a lot better too. It will soon be time to start riding again every day.

He is now holidaying at Coolangatta on the Gold Coast and spends time doing early morning walks and rides along the sea side. He is planning on participating in the criteriums in Noosa and Brisbane in December.

So that is the update.

June 19, 1998 - Recovering

Sabine writes:

It has been a while, our computer had to go in to be checked, I had tortured it to much with my skills which date from six years ago in uni.... the technician said he would smack my rear if I do that to my pc again. Anyway, here we are again, and how, with some good news. Scott is continuing to recover with an amazing speed, compaired to us "normal" people. I guess being an athlete has got its pros, but then, if he wouldn't be a cyclist, he wouldn't have been run of his wheels by a TVM team car... He is still going into Ghent almost daily to work on his rehab. The last few days he has had a few problems with his shoulder muscles, I quietly think he had overdone the exercises a bit. He is so eager to get back on that bike.

The 26th he has a check up with the neurologist and if everything is ok he can start going out on the road again, he is really looking forward to that.

In the mean time, he is very dedicated to his rehab program and Fabienne, his kine is really impressed with his aim for perfection while doing the exercises.

The team is a bit lost since the accident, the guys are often on the phone talking to Scott about it. PALMANS has lost more than their kopman for the year I got the feeling, Scott also played a role as trainer and personal adviser I know now.

Walter Planckaert is trying to keep Scott bussy by letting him have his say in the team build up for next year and Scott is loving every minute of it. It keeps him sane.

TVM are playing hard ball, believe it or not. I can't understand that an insurance company is taking such a position, nobody over here does. We thought they would be human in their negotiations but all they have done since the accident is hurt me and Scott by their way of handling this situation. It looks like Scotts' former employer has not to much respect for their ex-employee. You'll hear more of this...

When are you coming to Europe Bill? Let us know hey !!

Till soon, Sabine

April 27, 1998 - Amstel Gold aftermath

Scott is in hospital in Gent and had a five hour operation for a brain haemorage which began at 6.15pm and lasted until 11.15pm (European time) last (Sunday) night. Doctors say his condition is stable and he's making a fair recovery but, pretty obviously, he's still in intensive care.

The accident occured with 30ks to go in Amstel Gold when Scotty was hit by the TVM car driven by Cees Priem. The car's sidelight clipped his back wheel which caused a chain reaction with Scott falling into Peter Van Petegem (who had just taken a bidon from Priem) and then being upended and thus bouncing on his head three times during as he rolled back down the road still clipped into his bike.

All of the team cars (for the riders in this second group) were in close formation and the Palmans car was with Scott immediately. Indeed, with all of the team cars behind that group, the Palmans guys were just waiting for Van Petegem to finish consulting with Priem before, themselves, moving up to talk to Scotty.

Following the crash, Scott was airlifted to hospital in Maastricht immediately after an immediate examination which proved no bones had been broken.

In Maastricht, doctors examined him but could find nothing wrong other than severe bruising and he was kept in overnight but transferred to Ghent during the course of Sunday afternoon. However, through the course of the afternoon and on arrival in Gent, Scotty kept complaining of intense headaches which ultimately led to severe vomiting and even more severe pain and blurred vision. Within half an hour of arrival in Gent hospital he was in intensive care and, when the Gent doctors realised that no ECG tests had been made in Maastricht, quickly did these and within half an hour Scott was operated on for a haemorage at the back of his head (which was putting pressure on his brain).

He's come through the operation OK, Sabine has been with him throughout and she says that his dark sense of humour is back again (!); apparently Scott's first comment was when he woke after the operation... , "just make sure they get me another shot of that Morphine stuff. Oh... and a coke as well please!"

It appears that he's out of immediate danger but, so long as he continues to make good progress, will be in hospital for at least another week for observation. After which he'll be allowed home but not allowed to train for another month so its highly unlikely that Scott'll be back in the thick of the action much before September (the late season classics).

Sabine said early this morning, "I was in Maastricht just by the finish. It looked like he was in place for a possible top ten finish - which I was really pleased about especially after his tendonitis problems in L-B-L and then.... I saw it all - as if in slow motion - on the big screens they have there. I couldn't breathe for what felt like a minute, couldn't scream, couldn't move, couldn't anything. I got to the hospital before Scott did and we didn't think it was too bad until he started to complain about the headaches much, much later on. Then the pain for him just got worse and worse, the vomiting started and it was when we'd got to the hospital in Ghent that everything seemed to go so fast. Obviously at that point it was really serious and there was this fantastic South African doctor who was very direct and explained everything very succinctly, showed me the pictures( X-rays) and you could see where the haemorage was. As soon as his blood-type arrived, they were able to operate. And now, he's awake, pretty groggy but laughing and joking and wanting cans of coke and annoyed at the nurses who won't give him them!"

The most important thing is Scott's ok and alive (although, in truth, it was a close run thing).

If anyone would like to send a note to Scotty then please send it to neilstorey@aol.com and Neil will pass them over the channel to Scott.

April 20, 1998 - After Luik-Bastenaken-Luik

Sabine Sunderland writes (for Scott):

Dear Bill
I was proud yesterday evening, after seeing Scott finishing 19th in LBL. First of the Aussies, first Palmans rider. His first remark was "I thought about stopping for a while there." His leg had been hurting all day. He has had tendonitis in the left leg, at the back of the knee. Tuesday, he had to stop Paris-Camembert one hour before the finish because he couldn't stand the pain any longer. On Wednesday he couldn't train and Walter Plankaert (Palmans team director) took him to Dr. Mertens in Leuven where he got 4 needles in the leg. Thursday morning he tried to train but came home totally disappointed after 1 hour. Friday morning another visit to Dr. Mertens and another 4 needles. Scott insisted on training on the home trainer in the afternoon and could do so without pain. So he talked to Walter and they decided to let him start LBL.

On Saturday, another day of complete rest. I took him to the Holiday Inn in Gent where the team picked him up and drove to Antwerp, to the "headquarters" - the Palmans family residence. They were treated to a nice lunch and I must say it was Scott's first experience with such dedicated sponsors. He was impressed. From there they went to the hotel in Leuven.

I was wondering is Scott could finish the 265 kms hard race - 13 climbs with the hardest being La Redoute - a 3 kms long hill with a really steep section in the middle. We went to see the race at km 159 - on the Cote Trois Pont, a nice climb. They took it at quite a nice speed too. I saw Scott sitting in the front of the peloton which was catching up to a group of 9 which had a 2 minute gap at that moment. I heard later they went right at the beginning of the race and they were caught at the 179 kms mark.

Walter passed in the Palmans team car and made a "thumbs up" sign with a big smile on his face which meant that Scott was doing fine. I could believe it!! We weren't going to go to another point to watch them pass but we got so excited that we drove to the Cote de Rosier, at km 195. We saw the peloton cruise up the climb, Scott sitting comfortably in the front. From there, we raced to Liege, where we had some problems getting to the showers in the Sports Hall because of the impressive police force, trying very hard to do an excellent job!

After a detour we finally arrived. In the mean time we had followed the race on the radio. A small group had gone away. Scott was in it. The Cote de la Redoute had split the race as it always does. Bartoli won easily from Jalabert. We watched it on the TV in the pub of the Sport's complex. People might think I'm crazy watchin it there while I could have watched it live 2 kms further up the road. But, it is always a hassle getting to the showers afterwards to pick Scott up.

Scott came in 19th and Saen (their little son) got all excited when he say his dad walking in only a few minutes later.

Two day's Later - Tuesday, April 22

I promised to keep you informed on Scott's knee problem. Well we finally have certainty over the severity of the injury. Yesterday he received another 2 needles in his leg. We drove to Leuven again to Dr. Mertens. In the evening we went to see Wilfried Nelissen's doctor, Dr. Rousseau in Gent. He did an "echo" on Scott's knee and we could clearly see the inflamed tendon which attaches the hamstring to the left knee. Dr. Rousseau prescribed some heavy AIFs and preferred Scott to stop racing for the moment - for at least 10 days.

But Scott has to race the GP Schoten (Scheldeprijs) today if he wants to compete in the Amstel Gold Race on Saturday. Dr. Rousseau agreed to this but said he could not stress the left leg. He now has to be careful not to compensate and hurt the right leg. So, don't expect to see Scott at the front of the general ranking on Saturday. After Sunday, 10 days of intense physiotherapy is on the agenda and no racing - until the inflammation is gone.

Was it going to go smoothly this season, or what? We don't know what triggered the injury but it was probably the riding on the cobbles. We'll have to wait to see how things evolve.