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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 12 - May 22: San Dona-Monte Zoncolan, 185 km

A protest and the Zoncolan

We had a bit of strike at the beginning today because of the circuit yesterday. Everyone was already upset after the other day, now you can see the problem. When a classement rider is mixing it in the sprinters it gets messy, because it's not just the classement rider by himself, he's with 3-4 teammates so you've got 20-25 people who normally wouldn't be there.

Everyone's trying to push through for the win and it's dangerous. When you want to win, you have to do certain things, and the one who pushes more ends up to be the winner. Mario Cipollini didn't deserve to crash yesterday, now he's out. He could have survived a few more stages otherwise.

We're against making a stupid finish like that with a corner at 200m before the line. If it's dry it's still going to be a crash, although it might be riders behind who are caught in the wash. They make a rule to wear helmets but don't change the obvious. It's like having Formula 1 cars race around a Go-Kart track.

What we want is that when there is a circuit at the end, or lots of corners in the last 3-4 km, the times will be taken 3-4 km from the finish. The organisers say it's not good because you've got a small group sprinting. But the point we're trying to put forward is - make it straight and you will have a big group.

We had a 10 minute pause before the start, and I think these rules should be across the board internationally. Unfortunately the UCI doesn't police anything. We need a safety committee or something. Anyway there was quite a big discussion about it and we'll see where that goes.

Unpopular attackers

When we kicked off and headed off, the Kelme guys were quite quick on the attack. This was not to the liking of everyone else because we didn't get our pee break out of town. So the Kelme boys didn't make a lot of fans. It was on for young and old for a little bit there.

Then we got down to it. The break went away with six guys and that was ok because we didn't have to worry about the Intergiro. But the Colombian guys got on the front and they went full gas through the feed. They weren't popular either, and Magnus, Robbie and the Italians expressed their disapproval. I was caught back in a second group 50-100m off the back doing 50km/h through the feed zone - it's just not necessary you know?

It was pretty fast and furious all day. For myself, everything went quite well. I wasn't really that good on the Fuessa so I didn't go with the break. I didn't really feel as though I was able to. Afterwards we came to the second climb and then the Zoncolan and I thought I was going to survive the onslaught. I thought after 3-4 km 'That's good. I survived the Saeco acceleration.' Then Pantani came with his boys and I went off. I'm not going to be up there for the classement so I just put it up a few gears and rode my own tempo.

The last 3 km were bloody hard I can tell you. I was using 38/x27 and my front wheel was coming off the ground. I saw the images of Simoni and Garzelli afterwards and they were giving it some gas on that climb. In the end it was OK for me. I finished 23rd and that's not too bad, because there were 11 in front at the bottom of the climb and I picked up some of those guys.

The legs are going round OK and my descending has improved a hell of a lot. I've got my confidence back after that bad first day. Now it's no probs at all. I'm in the first 10 on the climbs, and getting to the bottom in first 15.

Coming up

Looking at tomorrow, it's going to be a bit of a change in the racing as far as aggressiveness goes. Because Cipo's not here any more, Domina Vacanze won't be the controlling factor in the stage. I'm not sure that Fassa will be that quick to ride for Petacchi. As for the others, Svorada, Baldato, and Lombardi will be looking for themselves to go in a break. These guys are far enough down on GC to go up in the break and win themselves.

You're probably going to see a bit more variation in the race because we've got a hard day on Saturday with four first Cat. climbs.

For the team, Magnus is still up there for the Intergiro. We didn't have to worry about it today which was lucky because it was at the top of a short hill. But we have got a couple of boys sick. Rene Jørgensen has been sick since early on and has been on antibiotics. He doesn't seem to be getting better. Lars Bak seems to be sick and I'm not sure whether he'll start tomorrow.

From the Aussie perspective, we lost Brett Lancaster (Panaria) a couple of days ago. Also Robbie McEwen probably won't bother after tomorrow. We're heading back towards Milan tomorrow and he could get a flight fairly easily.

Graeme Brown survived today. He came past the campervan after the stage and I gave him one of those vanilla protein bars which taste like milkos. He only got a can of coke from his team because they're pretty strict about eating and everything. Brownie and Scotty Davis were pretty happy with their milky bar!

At this point of the race you need some nice things. I've got a 500g bar of chocolate which I still haven't started, also some choc toffs (which are nearly finished) and some wine gums.

Thanks for your support

Finally I have to thank all my freinds and supporters who've been keeping me going via SMS and email - that helps keep me motivated I can tell you! Thanks also for the mentions from Belgian TV1 commentators Michel Wuyts and national coach José De Cauwer, who are real cycling connoisseurs and are doing a great job.

OK, I'd better be going as it's dinner time soon.