Jacobs Creek Tour Down Under - 2.3

Australia, January 15-20, 2002


Sunderland update: some better news

By Karen Forman

Injured Tour Down Under rider Scott Sunderland limped into the press centre this afternoon on crutches and made an announcement that made journalists cheer.

"I won't need an operation," he said. "I am looking at about three to four weeks before I can start to do some work on the trainer...then I am still looking at 7-8 weeks before I can go out, but I had an MRI scan today and I don't have to have surgery."

The Australian Institute of Sport rider attracted the sympathy of all when he fractured his tibia and sustained soft tissue damage after coming down in a crash involving five others just 2km from the finish line in the fifth stage of the 2002 Tour yesterday.

Having fought hard to come back after crashing two years ago, he was finally feeling fit and strong and was predicting a good year ahead. Then he was brought down and is now facing a three-month recovery. Somehow, he is still smiling and his attitude is positive, despite doctors warnings that he will have to be careful or risk further and more permanent damage.

"They told me that when I do go out, expect the worst, if fall on it. It will be a lot worse," he said. "It still will be 12 weeks minimum before I am in competition."

He is already planning his therapy program. "I will get on the home trainer in three weeks...then it will be seven or eight weeks before I am outside," he said. "Then I will probably be in competition but the level will be quite minimal"

Asked about his Commonwealth Games plans now, he said:

"I will have to talk to (AIS head coach) Shayne Bannan about the Commonwealth Games and see how I can do it. There is automatic selection for the Games at the end of April. World rankings, the top three Australians will be automatic. We'll just have to see exactly when the last selection is."

He is still unsure about what exactly happened to cause the ill-timed crash.

"I was talking to one of the Lotto guys, Van Dijk. He was next to Gene Bates. Gene didn't see the wheel or the guy in front of him. But Gene was there and fell over the wheel and I fell over the top of him. At that speed it doesn't matter how quick your reflexes are."

He still considers the crash had something to do with inexperienced riders, but suggested some reports were a little tough.

"I think what happened which is purely understandable, is that for these guys it's a big race and if they can get results now...they want to be in the bunch sprint in the end instead of looking at where its going. You see it a lot in the Tour de France...guys who are tired at the end of a bit race a big stage. Reaction time gets less and not seeing as much."

Sunderland said the pain level was worse today than yesterday, probably because the knee was full of fluid.

"Oh well," he said. "I'll get there."