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By Tyler Hamilton, CSC cycling team
SUNDAY: It’s been over a month since my last race, so it’s good to be getting back to business. However, I’m not sure I’ll be riding at the level I was at Liege-Bastogne-Liege or the Tour of Romandie this week. But that’s okay; my goals aren’t quite the same here at the Dauphine-Libere.
When the first leg of the season came to a close in early May, I took a week long break from the bike to allow my body a little time to recuperate. After the down time, I started training specifically for the Tour de France. The goal being, to allow my body to recover and to slowly rebuild my strength in a methodical way that hopefully delivers me to the Tour in the kind of shape I ended the spring season with.
That all said, I’m hoping to use this block of racing which included the Classics des Alps yesterday and the Dauphine-Libere that started today, to improve my strength as we march through the month of June and head into crunch time.
Yesterday was a bit of wake up call. Having the Classics des Alps as your first day back in the saddle after some time off is a tall order. It’s a brutally difficult one day race comprised of back to back category 1 climbs. I knew it was going to be tough on me, especially since I’ve been bogged down with some stomach problems over the last couple of days. I’ve been on the road most of the last week, and I think I must have eaten something I’m still trying to shake off.
I made it through about the first 105 kilometers before pulling out. In my situation, I didn’t want to bury myself just before starting a difficult stage race like the Dauphine. It was a tough day for sure. But I wasn’t alone in bowing out. A major portion of the peloton stopped at the first feed zone.
I’ve almost always had a break in May. It’s a quiet month for racing if you’re not doing the Giro. In the past, this has allowed me to train extra hard and really come back strong for the racing in June. That was great in a way, because it lead to a number of successes. But, it also left me a little tired by the time July rolled around. So, this year I’m trying to pace myself a bit.
The Dauphine-Libere is a special race for me. I haven’t returned to this event since winning in 2000. Those are incredible memories looking back. But, my goal this year is to simply finish the Dauphine in better shape than I started.
The prologue was quite difficult tonight. I started third to last around 6:30 p.m. Lance was the final rider off since he is the returning champion.
The course was 5 kilometers long and included about 3 kilometers of pretty technical downhill terrain at the beginning and finished with 2 kilometers of steep climbing. I rode it four times this morning in training on four different bikes: my carbon Cervelo R 2.5, my standard road bike the Soloist, my time trial bike with the shifters at the end of the TT bars, and finally, my spare TT bike with the shifters at the end of the cow horns. I wound up racing on the last one which was probably a bit of miscalculation. Most of guys who rode well did so on their road bikes.
I’ve ridden a lot of really challenging prologues this year, and the Dauphine proved to be no exception. I was definitely a bit empty tonight, and I suffered climbing toward the finish. I wound up about 45 seconds behind the leaders. It’s tough to see myself finish so far back, but patience is a big part of this game.
I’ll be back with another wrap up after stage 2.
Until then, thanks for reading.