Hamilton's courage prompts awe back homePosted: Wednesday July 09, 2003 6:11 AM
BOSTON (Reuters) -- American Tyler Hamilton is commanding the respect and awe of his countrymen by ignoring a broken collarbone to press ahead with the world's most famous cycling race.
Even Lance Armstrong, who has inspired millions of Americans by coming back from cancer to win the Tour de France four times, saluted his rival, calling him a "tough dude" before the start of Tuesday's 167.5-km stage from Charleville to Saint Dizier.
Hamilton's hopes to deny his former teammate a fifth straight Tour victory appeared to shatter on Sunday when he broke his collarbone in a crash near the end of the first stage.
But the CSC team leader, a versatile rider who finished second in the Giro d'Italia last year despite a broken shoulder, decided to stay in the race. He has finished both the second and third stages of the Tour and says he hopes to make it through Wednesday's team time trial.
"It's classic Tyler," Bill Hamilton said of his son, who he said had trained all year for the French race. "He's ridden many times while hurt and knows how to put mind over matter.
"He was going for it, he was giving it his all to beat the man," he said, referring to Armstrong. "We're disappointed, but we're obviously proud of him for staying in.
"It's what he wants. He's doing it for the team. He plans to stay in long enough for the team time trial. Beyond that, if he feels he's getting better he may continue," he said.
Dan Tamasauskas, an amateur cyclist from Hamilton's home state of Massachusetts, said Hamilton was raising the bar for the rest of the peloton with his dedication and professionalism.
Another avid cyclist from the Boston area, Michael Taylor, said: "Tyler typifies the gritty New England cyclist who braves freezing temperatures and the worst drivers in the country to train outdoors year-round."
Riders who have suffered similar injuries said they could not imagine the pain Hamilton must be in. Many noted the injury makes walking difficult and cycling nearly impossible.
Mark Pierson rode a bike after shattering his collarbone and likened the experience to having "a butcher knife in my shoulder."
Another Massachusetts cyclist, 27-year-old Kyler Eastman, broke his collarbone during a race earlier this season. Eastman said he and his doctor agree that Hamilton's decision to continue is "crazy."
"If he crashes again he can pulverize that bone, making recovery take six months instead of six weeks," Eastman said.
But those who know Hamilton said they were not surprised by his tenacity.
"His refusal to quit is what has always made him special. Tyler is one of these guys who can take enormous amounts of pain and just keep on going," said Richard Fries, publisher of an East Coast cycling magazine and one of Hamilton's former teammates.
"If he were a boxer, he would just keep getting up -- he's Rocky Balboa on a bike," Fries said.
Steve Pucci, Hamilton's former coach, said the Massachusetts rider was unique in his focus and determination.
"I will suggest that the top 200 bicycle racers in the world are in this event and I truly believe that only one, Tyler, would have continued racing with a fractured collarbone," he said.
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