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2003 Giro d'Italia rider journals

Scott Sunderland

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Nationality: Australian
Team: Team fakta-Pata Chips

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 possible ever 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.

Stage 9 - May 19: Arezzo-Montecatini, 160 km

A fast race, and Cipo does it

We started off this morning with a wake up call from the UCI. They did hematocrit tests on our team and a few others. They went alright - everybody dropped a couple of percent which is the norm in a race like this. I would have liked that extra hour and a half of sleep, but everybody's got to do it.

The race went from kilometre zero, which has been very rare. There were a few times when it slowed down but it just continued all day. Finally they let a group of six guys go. At one stage I was off the front with Garzelli and Noè, after Garzelli closed a little gap on a hill. But the Fassa's closed it down. Then Cipo's boys got in front and took the race in hand to the finish.

We came onto the circuit and there were a few attacks, a few riders chipping off the front, but they didn't last long. Maggie [Bäckstedt] went out on a corner coming onto the lap there - some guys fell off in front of him and he totally lost 50-60 places. He wasn't able to get up the front again.

All in all, with that crash right at the end it threw a bit of spectacle into the finale. Cipo only had to sprint the last 150m because Lombardi had such a great leadout. So Cipo got his record which is fantastic for him, good for Italian cycling and the Giro. He deserved it because he's been at the top and been the world's fastest sprinter for a decade. I think from what he's done over the years, it's been a pretty huge career.

Petacchi losing the edge

Petacchi's slowing down a bit too. I thought possibly it could happen with Petacchi. There was so much pressure and media to cope with in the first week - it was a new position to be in. He had to handle a hell of a lot. First the jersey then the three stages. He's done well.

Tour non-selection

I'm actually happy for Cipo but I'm a bit funny about the Tour selection. The Tour is three weeks long and nearly all the sprinters will be there for three weeks. But Cipo has made the habit of being there for less than two weeks. Also what he said last year at Paris-Roubaix probably didn't help.

On the other hand, for cycling fans who are looking at the big bunch sprints in the first week, not having one of the best sprinters there takes away from it. I'd be watching it in the first week because Mario Cipollini's going to be there. Sure you've got the Telekoms and McEwen's team, which isn't strong enough to lead him out. Domina Vacanze is the only team that can do it.

Cipo's classy, a big personality, a showman and a World Champion with a decade of being on top. He's won some big races. In the modern era, you're not going to get a rider like that. He's been through a hard period and he's showed he's still the best. It would have been nicer to have him there, even for 10 days.

I think it's poor from the French side of things. Jean Delatour? Sorry, but what have they done? They're French and that's it. Cipo's team makes races, his team takes responsibility and they make the big show. The French egos have just got in the way here.

Tomorrow: the hills

Tomorrow's going to be a hard day. I don't think there's too much flat tomorrow. Today we had a quick average because the race started so early. Tomorrow I think it will be the same. There are four second cat. climbs which are pretty steep. And it's a long day at 200 km.

Looking in the race booklet we've got the Valico la Valletta (150 km) which has a maximum of 18 percent and an average of 8 percent, and it's not even given a category! Then there's the Monte Trebbio, which is 6.1 km long with a maximum of 15 percent and a 6.7 percent average. That's getting quite steep. And in between those hills there's not much flat. (The organisers are quite lenient with their grading. We did a second category climb yesterday that was all in the big ring, and a third cat the other day that was bloody hard.)

Tomorrow, anyone who's lost a bit of time, e.g. myself, we're definitely pushing to get in an escape. Garzelli's team has got to let something go, because to ride the whole day will be difficult. I'll try and get in the right break, but that means being with guys who are more than a couple of minutes down on GC, so there's a bit of luck involved. Also you've got to be able to ride all day. I'll definitely be up there trying to give it a shake.

Well, we're approaching halfway tomorrow...actually it will be halfway because I don't count time trials, even when you give full gas. But I'll probably end up with sore legs the same as if I did a 200 km road stage.

Until then,