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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 14 - May 24: Marostica-Alpe Pampeago, 162 km

Food, glorious food

Today we're staying in the most awesome hotel. It's in a castle and my room has a big wooden bed, big wardrobe, crystal chandelier, beautiful windows, a fantastic bathroom...The only drawback is that you've got a haute cuisine restaurant, which means the portions are very small. We had some really nice ravioli with fresh spinach pressed in between, a little bit of cream sauce - it was beautiful. But we only got half a dozen pieces per serve - we needed three platefuls! Then they brought out some delicious chicken after we were all getting a bit full. Them mousse with almond nuts then chocolate cake with vanilla sauce, dates with ice cream wrapped in marzipan. It makes it all worth it.

We also had a couple of bottles of wine at the table, just to keep your heads clear. Our director knows we're responsible and we won't have more than one or two glasses. Some guys say no, but at least you get that freedom if choice.

Like Brownie (who went home today, poor bugger - he just missed the time cut). Those vanilla protein bars and that can of coke I gave him would never be allowed in his team. It's very old mentality. I believe in balance and moderation.

Today's stage

It was a big day today. We knew that it was going to be a dangerous day for cutoff time. Three riders missed it, including Graeme Brown. All our boys got through, but only by a few minutes. We lost a few points in the Fair Play classification though. In the race, any infringement you get is added on as points. The team with the least amount of points wins the Fair Play Classification. We were equal fifth coming into the stage, but Lars Bak got pushed five times by spectators by climbs. What can you do? He was so knackered, trying to keep with the grupetto not to lose time. You run the risk of being cut if you lose the grupetto. When it's so steep in the last few km you can't lift your hands off the handlebars to stop the fans pushing you, and he didn't speak the language either.

It was a bit of a disappointment, because the prize was worth 9000 euros. We're trying to keep a clean record.

I had a rough day yesterday and I think people could read it in the diary. This morning started off pretty ordinary again, although mentally I was turned around a bit. I tried to pick myself up this morning, even if the legs were inclined to feel like yesterday.

The break went away and we had Julian Winn there, which was good as he took the Intergiro. It took me the first half of the first climb to get going and that was OK. Now I'm through this day it's just going to get better. The end of the second week is always the hardest for me. Lots of riders say that between the 12th-16th stage you tend to have a hard period. once you get through it you get over it.

Saeco controlled it all day today but when they're coming into that last climb a bit fresh it's a bit harder for me. The first day when I got 19th we did a climb just before, which took the sting out of everyone's legs. I just don't have that power to continue on the big gear for that one or two kilometres. That's all I need to stay with them.

But I'm being consistent. I'm always round the top 20-25. I dare say that's where I should be.

Tomorrow against the clock

Fantastic time trialer that I am, I just don't know what to expect tomorrow. It's different in a five day race when everyone's fresh. Here we are in the middle of three weeks. To tell you the truth I've got no idea how I'm going to go. I'll see if I can hold my own with the other GC riders...I'm not talking top 10. We've seen Simoni win again today, so the classification is the only thing I can keep hold of. My opportunities for stage wins are dwindling. We've got three more flat days, then two mountain days.

I'm still enjoying it, getting through it. I thought it might have been me at the beginning. Now we've gone this far I realise there's a difference in the level compared to 10 years ago when it was a bit faster. It's very positive for cycling and the younger riders coming up. I just think in the long run cycling had to suffer but it's going to come out on top.

Village people

Everybody in the village was pretty quiet today. The Lotto boys had long faces - not quite pessimistic but a bit doubtful. There were thoughts in their minds about whether they would be there for the TT.

For some of the guys, although I know Simoni was riding hard, the boys behind had to suffer a lot to be in the time limit. When you're at the back like that it's not easy. Everyone was wondering what was going to happen. A few of the guys were lucky they didn't go that hard on the first climb.

Aussie cheer

I saw a couple of Aussies today with Lawrie Cranley's group cheering for me on the side of the road. There were even a few Italian supporters calling out for team fakta. It's always nice when you get a call on the side of the road.

Guess what, we've got a big surprise for tomorrow: We're having pizza tomorrow night!

Ciao for now,