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Stage 9: Tivoli – Caserta — 201km
By Tyler Hamilton, CSC-Tiscali professional cycling team
Today’s stage was perhaps the least nerve-wracking so far. But it was fast.
The sprinters were all on their toes and it showed with their teams at the front most of the way. CSC-Tiscali took a brief look at things from their vantage point toward the end. Bjarne Riis had given us the nod to move up and stay out of trouble heading into the finish town.
If you saw the television coverage, than you know there were a few dangerous turns before the final kilometer. Our strategy worked, and we were able to stay out of the fray when a few guys went down with five kilometers to go. For the most part, I spent the day keeping guard of the heavy hitters, while my team kept guard of me.
Yesterday’s uphill finish was pretty hard. Some of the big guns tried to get away and possibly make some time on me, but I managed to stay with them. My main priority has been keeping Simoni and Casagrande in check. If they move, I move. I made the choice to lay low yesterday because I don’t want to burn any unnecessary matches if I don’t have to. Ideally, I want to have all my strength going into the tough days ahead.
On a disappointing note, it was a shame to see Perez from Kelme crash out of the race yesterday. He’s a young, up and coming talent. A really good rider. You never want to see guys like him leaving the race early, especially when you know they could have proven a few things before the finish.
The good news for me is my man Ole has me moving my arm up over my head for the first time since Friday. Two days ago I could barely raise my arm to shoulder height. Tonight, I’m fully mobile again. Basically, he’s fixed my broken body within 24 hours.
He’s no secret but he is a weapon. I’ve been keeping everyone on the staff pretty busy with all the attention I’ve been requiring as of late. With an hour spent with the soigneur and two or more spent with Ole added to the time spent with the doctor to clean my wounds and the time it takes to eat, rehash the day with Bjarne, call my wife, take a shower and write my journal, I barely have two seconds to myself. But then again, I’m keeping everyone else from having any down time, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
I’ve been pretty wiped-out by the end of each night. Two days ago I fell asleep talking to my wife on the phone. She forgave me though.
I got an incredible boost today. I had a care package sent to me at the start from Andy Hampsten. He’s the only American to ever win the Giro d’Italia and is probably my original hero from the sport of cycling. I started following his career right around the time he found success here in Italy. His talent and humility are two of the greatest examples of sportsmanship I’ve ever known.
We became teammates on US Postal and would sometimes room together on the road. He taught me an awful lot about racing by being an incredible example as well as friend. Andy lives in Tuscany with his family and runs a bike touring company now. He sent me a gallon size jug of oil made with olives from his own grove. Not bad.
My family has a long standing tradition dating all the way back to 1997, of hanging banners on their houses while I’m riding in a grand tour. Since 5 of my 6 starts in grand tours were in France before I entered this year’s Giro, the message has always been the same: “Allez Tyler”.
The banners are hand crafted with old bed sheets and some spray paint. My parents, sister and brother all live in the same town and they all hang the signs. I don’t know if everyone appreciates or understands them. The tourists probably wonder what the heck they are all protesting.
This year, my parents called a neighbor who once lived in Italy and asked what a sign for the Giro d’Italia should say. The neighbor thought about it, consulted with his European parents, and finally suggested “Forza Tyler”. Which, I think means “be strong” and is also what I hope to be in the days ahead.
So, and if you’re ever in Marblehead, Massachusetts, you should look up my family. They’re easy to find because they’re the folks with all the missing paint on the sides of their houses. Taping up banners does have its drawbacks even though they’re much appreciated.
Thanks for reading.
Editor’s Note:Tyler Hamilton is sending diary entries toVeloNews.com every other day throughout the 2002 Giro d’Italia. Click belowfor his earlier entries.The Prologue: Noworse for wearStage 2: Gettingon TrackStage 4: Charginginto StrasbourgStage 6: Trouble comes in threes… I hopeStage 8 Theroad to recoveryCare to comment? Send ane-mail to our letters page.