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2003 Giro d'Italia rider journals

Scott Sunderland

Index to all entries

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 11 - May 21: Faenza-San Dona, 222 km

Wet, wet, wet

Today actually started off ok in terms of the weather, although we did have a stinking headwind. Then it turned around and a Southerly came in with a big thunderstorm. We had a little bit of a shower just after the Intergiro, but then it started coming down in buckets. Hail and everything. It was becoming quite dangerous. When you put on the brakes coming into the corners you had a feeling you were going faster.

Guys started dropping themselves everywhere so I went back, got my rain jacket, put that on and decided just to get through it in one piece. Let the boys fight it out in front. Now when it's not important I'm just in total recuperation mode.

In the finishing circuit, every corner just about had someone go down. The peloton started splitting and coming into the last corner, Cipo - who is one of the best cornerers in the wet - got taken out by Galvez, who was just going too fast. Robbie was able to profit from the fall and went on to a pretty easy win.

I tipped Robbie because he's really good in the wet weather like that. In the dry I think Cipo would have taken a bit of an advantage, but in the wet I think he's a bit more prudent.

Where'd those Tenax guys go?

After about 20 km today, two Mercatone Uno guys went up ahead to greet their families. When we got there, there was a big party with ice cream, wine, pieces of cake...The peloton just stopped! They were handing out plastic cups of wine, whatever you wanted.

16 km later these two Tenax guys went off together, and nobody took much notice. They thought they'd just gone to meet their families too. The gaps started to come back: 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 6 minutes...Then they sort of realised it was an attack and they had to get them back. The two Tenax guys were lucky it was a tailwind or they would have been caught earlier.

There were still a few seconds worth going for at the Intergiro - we were on the front for Magnus, who got over Di Biase on the finish line and closed the gap a little in the classification. There are only really three guys contending for the Intergiro which makes it hard. But Magnus only has to have one good day where he takes some points and the other guy doesn't and it will be possible.

Prairie dogs

With the rain and everything when we were riding along, everybody was trying to sit up and see what was happening in front. They looked prairie dogs like you see on National Geographic shows, craning their necks to see what was going on and where the corners were coming.

Milkos and Redskins

I was sitting there talking to Brownie [Graeme Brown]. We were getting pretty hungry because after 60 km I'd eaten all my food. I got a Squeezy vanilla protein bar from the team car and gave some to Brownie, and he said it tasted like a milko. So then we started talking about redskins and milkos [sweets] - that's how bored we were. Talking about getting takeaway good from the fish'n chip shop. "Two buckets of chips and a chiko roll and a couple of scallops."

We normally avoid each other in the village, so we've got something to talk about during the race!

Over halfway

We're halfway through the race and on the downhill slide now. We've got four mega hard days in the mountains and two time trials and a couple of days still open for possibilities. There are still plenty of opportunities for everybody.

The team's going well. We're still with nine riders, hopefully we'll survive tomorrow and Saturday and make it through to the rest day. We're trying to finish with nine if possible.

Eating and recovering

We're lucky to be in Italy, but I'm getting tired of spaghetti before the race. Some days you wake up and you're pretty hungry, and with the later starts you've sort of got to have a second breakfast. You have a bit of muesli for brekky at 8am, then pasta a 10 o'clock. Now I start to sleep in so I don't have to eat more than once. You're eating all the time, drinking all the time, eating fruit and veggies, taking vitamins - trying to look after yourself.

I find I get really hungry about the fifth or sixth day of a stage race like this. During the stages themselves I'll eat a lot for the first 100km, then hardly anything for the second half - maybe one piece of cake. But it's one of the first signs when riders don't want to eat enough that they're going downhill.

This is actually the most important part of the tour now: from the 10th to the 15th day. If you get through this, then you'll get to the finish normally. We're used to doing so many five day and seven day races, and in training you can do a hard block of that long too. But you don't do three weeks.

My theory is that if your body goes past seven days to ten days and you're denying your body of rest, then it'll accept it.

Looking ahead

For the Zoncolan we're starting with a 38 at the front and 27 at the back. We'll have a 12 to 19 block (no 18), then 21, 24 and 27. The riders with Campag are using 39 x 28. If you have bad weather like this you'll definitely need it.

The climb is 13.3 km long, averaging 9 percent with a maximum of 22 percent. That's at the top in the last kilometre and a half. For the last 3.3 km it's between 12 and 18 percent. And it's a long stage too at 185 km.

For the moment everything is good, touch wood. I'm looking at a good day tomorrow. I'd like to get in the early break and get a head start on the boys on the last climb. The way Simoni and Garzelli are going, and given how steep it is, you'll definitely need five or six minutes to get to the top in front. If you're riding well.

It really depends how long you've been out there. If you can have that gap comfortably or you've had to work for it. Let's see what happens. I might as well have a go at it. If it's meant to be, I'll be there. If not, then there's another day.

So that's a bit of a plan for the day. The other scenario is to try and hang on in the climb and see how I go. If I'm not riding for a top 20 place, I'll just put it in the smallest gear without knocking myself about.

I'll see how it goes.

Until then,