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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 5 - May 14: Messine-Catane, 176 km

A short stage but a long day

Today was a long day for everyone, even though the stage was only 176 km. We were up at 7 this morning to do about 60 km in the car. Then we had the boat ride to Messina, then we did the stage, then we had a quick shower at the hotel at the finish line, then it was onto the bus and to the airport. The plane flight was 1 hour and we arrived in Napoli at 8:30 pm. Then it was another 60 km in the car to the hotel, so we didn't get dinner until 9:30.

As far as the racing goes, I'm starting to get a bit bored with it at the moment (I know I'll regret saying this later). It's not really up to us to be aggressive because it's three weeks long. But I'm a bit surprised that no other teams want to take it up.

We rode piano to the climb, which was a long second category climb around Mt Etna. There were some beautiful views and I took it in a bit today. We had great views to the beach and the coast and up through the mountains. Very nice scenery.

Petacchi and Cipo rode tempo on the front and everyone was very happy to go up like that. It was quite a long climb - 25 km. It was also warm, which made things a bit uncomfortable in a dense pack. Then the two riders went for the mountain sprint and kept going. We had a rapid descent, then Cipo's team and some of the Fassa boys got on the front. Then it just came down to one sprint at the end.

I gave a bit of confusion to the commentators when I was sitting at the back with Frank Høj. We were sitting at the back because of all the waves. So many riders were fresh that it was hard to hold position up front. We got a bit frustrated with all the pushing and shoving. The camera was on us so we give our families a bit of a wave.

Then only a few km later I was back on the front again. It was a bit of a sprint to get up there - I picked up Lars Bak and Magnus along the way so we were able to put Magnus out of trouble on Cipo's wheel. Unfortunately he got himself into a bit of strife on the last corner. By the time he got it right he lost five places so he just missed out on the top 10. There were other riders too who got hindered by that last corner as it was pretty rough with a few holes. But that's how it goes in sprinting.

The stage was really nice. The organisation of the Tour of Italy has made sure the all the districts have resurfaced the roads which are too bad, so we've been having really nice roads to ride on.

All in all, the first five stages have been pretty good. I think the day after our rest day is going to be another sprinter's stage. Fassa Bortolo is going for every chance possible to keep the Maglia Rosa, and Cipo is going to be looking for stages. It's perfectly flat for the last 40 km. It might be worthwhile trying something because it's very flat before the climbs and 40 km after. We'll see. They might give us a bit of room, but you just can't be doing it with two or three. You need a few guys going with you on an adventure like that.

Terminillo [Stage 7] is going to be the day when we see the big boys are going to come out to play... But if there's a chance of five or six riders going away before the climb, you never know, I might be there. Because from the GC riders, there's no-one who might take responsibility totally. It could allow for a break to get a bit of extra time.

Anyway now we're starting to come into my terrain. This is what I'm here for: the next 11 days. I've finished the first five days, now there's a rest day, then the next block of 11 days. I'm treating it like three stage races because it's easier mentally.

Staff working hard

Our soigneurs and mechanics are working pretty hard. The mechanics start at 7:30am and normally don't finish until 8:30pm. Then they start again next morning. All the soigneurs are up at 7 too. And sometimes after dinner time there's a little bit of treatment that needs to be done, so they're working until 10:00 in the evening. It's big days for everybody and we're very grateful to our personnel.

Tomorrow's plan

For the rest day tomorrow, some guys like Magnus and Jørgen Bo want to go out and do 2.5 - 3 hours tomorrow. Myself and probably four of the other guys will do an hour or an hour and a half. On Friday it's a 220 km stage and the first 80-100km are flat. If they're riding like they have been, then it'll be 30 km/h for a few hours. If it was a mountain stage on Friday I'd do more, but an hour and a half is enough. Total recuperation and as much relaxation and sleep as possible.

I saw a nice gelateria near the hotel today, so I'll probably treat myself to a nice gelato tomorrow. I think they'll be doing good business from Team fakta-Pata Chips tomorrow!

Mosquito torture

Last night the accommodation in the hotel was ok, but we got drilled by mosquitoes! Half the blokes ended up awake half the night swatting mosquitoes. I put those foam ear plugs in so I couldn't hear the suckers. Julian Winn was out on the balcony with a sheet wrapped around him with his nose sticking out. There were more mosquitoes in the room than outside. He swells up like a balloon from mosquito bites...

In the morning we all looked like teenagers because of the spots all over our faces!

Tonight's hotel is by the seaside thankfully, and so far I haven't spotted a mosquito...

Until Friday,