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2003 Giro d'Italia rider journals

Scott Sunderland and Magnus Bäckstedt

Index to all entries

Nationality: Australian and Swedish
Team: Team fakta

Scott Sunderland is riding his first three week tour since his infamous crash in the 1998 Amstel Gold Race, a feat that he didn't think was ever possible again. The determined and experienced Aussie will be one of the leaders of the Danish fakta team, which boasts riders like Magnus Bäckstedt, Frank Høj, Jørgen Bo Petersen and Kurt Asle-Arvesen. Magnus will also be a contributor to this Giro diary, with the big Swede joining the Aussie in the hunt for stage wins. Magnus has ridden the Tour de France on several occasions and has won stages, and that makes him a big asset for Team fakta in the Giro.

Introduction - May 7: Sunderland wants a stage win

By Jeff Jones

Scott Sunderland
Photo: © Frank Rud Jensen
Click for larger image

After his crash in the Amstel Gold Race in 1998, Scott Sunderland didn't think that he would ever ride another three week tour. The damage and the pain that it caused his body was so great, and the constant work that he has had to do to keep himself going put the thought of racing over 3000 kilometres in three weeks out of his mind. Now, five years on, Sunderland is one of the nine members of the fakta team that will be on the start line in Lecce on Saturday.

Scott spoke to Cyclingnews today before he headed off to Italy for the Giro, where he hopes that his gradual form build-up will ripen and bear fruit during the race. "I didn't think I'd ever be riding a three week tour again but now I'm quite looking forward to it," he said. "The head is good, the morale is high, my body feels strong and I've come into form late."

His main ambition will be to win a stage. "That's what I'm going to be gunning for. I've got the form but there's a certain amount of luck involved. The circumstances have to be right. If the sprinters teams are all riding, then it's difficult. Then if it's a classement sort of a day, it's also not easy. All the pegs have to go in the right holes and then you still have to be able to finish it off right. It's difficult to do, but I'm confident."

Sunderland is coming off a second place in the 1.2 ranked CSC Classic last weekend in Denmark, where he was beaten by Jakob Piil after being in the break all day. However, he states that there is still some more to come. "The results didn't really reflect that much on my form but it helps mentally. There's still a little improvement to come, but now I've got five days where I can get into it. We've got Magnus Bäckstedt, Frank Høj, Lars Bak, and Julian Winn who'll be going for it in the first five days to a week. Then in the second week there'll be myself, Jørgen Bo Petersen and Kurt Asle-Arvesen."

Frank and Magnus
Photo: © Frank Rud Jensen
Click for larger image

"Magnus and Frank are really motivated to take it up to the sprinters. On the weekend they were the two dominant riders in Herning [Høj was 1st and Magnus was 3rd in the GP SATS]. These guys are strong and fast and both are dangerous in the sprint or a solo attack."

"We've got Werner Riebenbauer for the sprints, and you never know how it goes in a sprint sometimes. It's possible for him to get in the top three. He's finding his way too: last year he placed two or three times in the first three in the Tour of Germany. Maybe this year he can repeat that. Lars Bak is in good form as well. The first week is going to be good for him and gives the rest of us a chance to get into it."

"Kurt Arvesen has got the best chance of doing a good classement because he places himself well in the peloton, he listens to his body and knows himself. He is climbing well and he can time trial well. It's going to be his first three week tour. He's motivated, he knows Italy, having raced with a few Italian teams. I'd say he's a good chance of 15-20th place."

"From the perspective of a good classement I'll see what happens," said Sunderland of his own overall ambitions. "Because the time trials are so late that's going to be hard. I'll try to minimize the losses as much as possible. I'm just not sure how I'll go. In 1996 in the Tour, I came out feeling really good."

For the first time in nearly a year [since the Tour of Austria], he will face climbs of 15-20 kilometres in length, but he says that it doesn't bother him. "I actually like the long climbs. I probably prefer the climbs in Italy than France. The only hills I've done this year were in Niedersachsen, which were 4-5 km climbs. On the other hand I'm a lot stronger on the flat."

"I'm optimistic but not stupid. I'll go with a positive attitude, and see what I can achieve. I don't see the three weeks being a problem. When you've got good condition, you can ride yourself into these things. It's important to know your limits and listening to what you're doing. On one day you could try to hang on a bit more with the group over a climb, but for that few minutes, the next day you could lose 10-15. It's the straw that breaks the camel's back."

Overall, Scott says that he's looking forward to it. "Three and a half weeks of eating pasta, it should be good weather, but the suitcase is half summer gear and half winter gear," he warns, realising how things can change in the mountains.

With the first five stages all being road stages (not time trials), the Giro will take on a different shape in the first week. "It's quite a different approach because there's no prologue. Usually you're messing with your time trial bike, checking out the prologue parcours two days before. It's pretty intense and there's a lot of nerves. This time it's like turning up for a one dayer. It's just more or less follow Cipo's train around and keep out of trouble."

As favourites, Scott is picking Casagrande, Simoni and Garzelli. "These three are the three. They've got the runs on the board. But someone may pop out of the woodwork."

Cyclingnews will be featuring a regular Giro diary from Scott and his fakta teammates as they travel around Italy in search of Giro glory.