The Scott Sunderland Diary 2002

Dark clouds with a silver lining

January 16-28, 2002

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Being patched up
Photo: © Tom Balkls

This wasn't exactly how I planned the start of the season! But you gathered that, right? Things like crashes and illnesses are something you have no control over and no matter how hard you work, there is nothing to protect you from bloody mishaps like this one.

I haven't had the courage yet to look at my Lightweight wheels (Geoff, the AIS mechanic told me after the crash they're pretty much ratshit now) and my brand new Principia pushy took a beating as well. But I have noticed there's no damage to the skidlid (helmet), so that's something, at least I know my head didn't get another whack.

People ask me how I'm coping. Well, I am coping OK I think, considering the circumstances. Twelve to fourteen weeks out of competition is not something I anticipated when I was taken to the hospital for X-Rays and MRI scan. My thoughts: "Aaaahhhh shit, not again!"

For people who like the cruel details, the injuries I have:
-An undisplaced fracture through the tibial plateau
-Partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament
-Abrasions on shoulder, hip and knee

Immediately after the crash the paramedics and Dr. Barnes were there for the initial treatment and to examine the injuries I suffered. They were awesome in their approach and I realize I was very lucky to be in the good care of the AIS team.

The Australian Institute of Sport does work with the best specialists and Dr. P G Barnes wrote a detailed diagnosis and suggested treatment for my physiotherapist here in Belgium. Yesterday, my physio Joris Diependaele came around for a social visit - assessing the damage - but he knew immediately what to start with and things were on a roll right away. I had my first session in the afternoon.

I would like to thank all the people on the medical staff of TDU, thanks for putting me back together again. And my team AIS manager Dave Sanders, Paul Brosnan, soigneur Robyn Taylor And team mechanic Geoff from Adelaide.

Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under

It is always hard to get injured this heavily while being in good form. I do have to say; I've only really crashed 3 times in the last 5 years; but every time I get lumbered with a serious rehabilitation program!

I know of guys who come off ten times a year and never have more than a scratch - suppose it's my nature, when I do things, I go all the way (can't help a little sarcasm).

The other riders at the Tour Down Under couldn't believe their eyes when they saw me hopping around on crutches. "F*** man, what's this!?" was the most frequent remark.
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Get well Scott!

It was a really good thing to feel the friendship and receive their warmest well wishes, especially from the Adelaide fans, In particular I received two well wishes from Sofia (8 yrs) and Fraser (5 yrs). They left two beautiful hand made "get well" cards at the reception for me. Many thanks to you both and I hope to meet you both again next year.

Dave Sanders, the director for the AIS team made sure I still felt part of it all and the AIS boys had a great race. Mick Rogers was very strong and even if it was stinging not to be there for those last stages, I enjoyed watching him revel in glory.

The Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under is the perfect race to start the season with. Organizer Mike Turtur and his staff have got things worked out into the smallest detail and it really is a race with the standard of a higher category.

The race course, the whole set-up, the enthusiastic Australian public make it a great event. Although I had some interviews to do myself, I wouldn't want to be in Stuey's shoes; mate, he hasn't got two seconds to himself. The pressure is on for him but he handles it well. Hometown race and hometown boy all adds up to mega PR for him.

I was having a great time down there in that beautiful wine region of South Australia. The atmosphere was fantastic; everyone in a good mood, with new outfits and new material - like the first day of school. The fantastic weather, the great scenery, it gives you an appetite for racing and every morning you get up eager to get out on the bike.

The European riders weren't surprised anymore, as they were during the first editions, about the excellent form most of the Aussies were in. I know some guys trained the proverbial nuts off during the month of December to give a good show in the TDU.

The other euro pros came to TDU in form too (especially the Italians), every one was relaxed but the racing was hard and fast. This year was the highest average speed (43.1 km/h) for the race.

The form was coming along nicely and a lot of people reckoned I was one of the strongest men in the race. Don't know about being the strongest, but I do know the legs were feeling good, better every day and I was aiming for a stage win on the Saturday. I had marked that stage as it really suited me best. Unfortunately the Friday was my last day in the saddle.

Tour Down Under Results

Rehab program

Next week, the 30th of January, I'm undergoing another examination to determine how well the fracture is healing; if it looks better, another scan will have to give more clarity. We can then see when it will be ok for me to start swimming and maybe - I hope - start light training on the home-trainer in the second week of February.

My brother-in-law is the swimming coach for the local swimming club and I am getting some help from that side too, to maximise my training in the pool. Aqua jogging seems the best way to go and as soon as my wounds heal a bit more, I'll be in the pool for half an hour to start with, at 6 o'clock in the morning, before the pool opens to the public.

"No matter how early you get up, you can't rush the dawn."

This Spanish proverb has an incredible depth to it and I do apply it to my own career; it tells me that success is something you achieve at the right moment, the right place. Call it fate, destiny, karmic completion, whatever works for you.

I believe that good things come to those who wait, and as I said before, I know my patience and hard work will be rewarded, in whatever way that reward comes. Maybe the real gift is that I do know exactly how to remain calm and patient by now, since '98 that has been a necessity. To learn patience is hard and takes time, for some a whole lifetime. And I still have none of it for long queues and traffic jams (I'm happy my son's teacher is working on it already. She took them to the local post office the other day: excellent exercise for this!)

The silver lining

In normal circumstances, I like to keep my private life out of cycling as much as is possible. I cherish my little family and from previous updates you might have noticed that I touch the subject now and again. So with all this bad news, I'd like to share a happy thought with you too. The black clouds that gathered above my head in January have a beautiful silver lining to them.

Why? Well, we are expecting our second child! The birth is calculated for the end of August. In this matter, the timing is great if you ask me as more than likely I'll be racing in Belgium (GP Dr. Tistaert in Zottegem, Druivenkoers Overijse, GP Jef Scherens Leuven, etc), so I'm close to home.

I'll be there for the first scan in February and more important, I'll also be there for those first months of his/her life.

In '96, when SaŽn was born end of January (Australia Day!), I was riding with Lotto, and the season was so busy, I missed out on a lot of funny and lovely moments. I remember missing home like crazy while riding the Tour de France that year. SaŽn (6) is stoked and would love to have "one of each", but my wife Sabine says just one more Sunderland driving her crazy will be more than enough - guess we do keep her busy!

About the home-trainer awards; I suppose I can't extend the deadline until end of March, can I? I probably would be able to award myself, as I might have broken the record by then - and have turned into a complete basket case, ready for the funny farm.

It'll be torture on the home-trainer for quite some days before being able to go out on the road again. (I'll nominate the winner in February, in the next update).

Maybe someone knows of a company that would like to sponsor me with some cool home-trainer? My computer on my old one broke a couple of years ago and I never got it replaced - thus I'm in need of a new piece of technology here!

Entries so far: Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV

Team fakta

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Magnus Backstedt
Photo: © AFP

In the meantime, my teammates have been kicking up a (sand)storm in the deserts of exotic Qatar. Maggy (Backstedt) has won worn the leader's jersey and we have had a top 10 finisher every day. Kim rang me and said the guys are looking good on the bike and their form seems to be at the right level for this time of the season. Michael (Skelde), Allan Bo (Andresen), etc; they all have been putting their mark on the race. Magnus finished 4th overall, Michael 11th.

Tour of Qatar Results

The team presentation had to be postponed till mid February; to accommodate all of the team. Part of the team is in Qatar and the other half will be going to Langkawi. By mid February I should be a bit more mobile and it will be more comfortable for me to attend the presentation.

It's going to be pretty damn frustrating not being part of the Spring Classics Team - especially because things were looking fantastic for the start of the European season.

In Belgium, Team fakta will start in e.g. Omloop Het Volk (1.1) and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (1.2) and a wildcard for Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are realistically within reach. I'm convinced the guys will do well in those races; they had assured Kim before the winter break that they'd be ready for them; I believe they will be. So watch for the Black/Red and White Team fakta outfits people; you'll get to see plenty of them!

On the other hand, on a more positive note, I'll have more time to spend with the cycling fans coming over to see those Classics. Lawrie Cranley (Bikestyle) and myself have been working together on the layout and the organisation of the Classics trip. In the weeks to come we're going to finish of the details and it will be good "occupational therapy" - as my wife calls it.

Maybe, if my training allows it, I'll be in the team car following some of the races. It's going to be my first time seeing the races from this angle; I'm curious about how it will feel. Who knows, I might like it and change my mind about becoming a team director later - the updates will be written from a completely different perspective too.

Team Director, notice I used the word later in the same breath.

For now, I totally agree with Andrť Tchmil (39). I quote: "It's not the year of your birth that counts in cycling; what matters are the legs and the head".

The head is right - as good as it can get anyway - and the legs are still full of juice and I'm still "only" 35 - so definitely no problem there!

Commonwealth Games

Many fans have sent e-mails wondering what will happen to my Commonwealth Games plans. I spoke to Shayne Bannan, national coach, before I left Australia. Normally, well more than likely, I would have automatic selection, as the first 3 Australians on the international UCI rankings at the end of April will be in the CG Squad. Because I'm out of competition for a few months, I'm losing no less than 220 points (approximately) by end of April, so I will not gain selection under those criteria.

But there is another training camp planned for the beginning of May, one I will be attending and where Shayne and Brian Stephens will be able to assess my form.

The parcours for the Commonwealth Road Race really suits me; and I know the area from racing there in previous seasons, so I do hope to make the cut. It'd be a bigger blow to miss selection for Manchester than these injuries are.

Anyway, I'm already looking ahead, but not that far just yet.

First thing on my schedule right now is hooking myself up to the Compex 400 Muscle Stimulator. This little beauty, new on the market, (I was told I'm the first athlete in Belgium to use one; the official launch is on the 4th of February) is going to be my best mate during the weeks off the bike. It has 8 electrodes which you can stick to - almost every part of - your body to "work" the muscles. It will help prevent extreme muscle loss and keep the legs from getting too hard and stiff.

Talk to you soon, with more good news!

And thanks again for all the well wishes.

Take care and keep riding,