King of pain
Hamilton stars in 'most difficult race ever'Posted: Wednesday July 23, 2003 12:14 PM
Updated: Wednesday July 23, 2003 1:12 PM
BAYONNE, France (Reuters) -- Injured Tyler Hamilton described this year's Tour de France as "the most difficult ever" after battling through the pain barrier to win Wednesday's 16th stage in Bayonne.
"After two weeks of this Tour, I can say it has been my hardest ever," said the 30-year-old after holding off the peloton on the final day in the mountains to win his first stage of the Tour.
The American broke his right collarbone in a nasty pile-up in the first stage of the Tour in Meaux and nobody expected him to even last this long, let alone win a stage.
"The first week was brutal. Both on and off the bike I was suffering," said the CSC team leader.
"I was not sleeping well. I just took it day to day the first week, hoping to last until the team time trial.
"After that, I felt OK and here I am. It's been a hard fight for me and my team," he said.
Hamilton, who attacked on arguably the most brutal climb this year, the Bagarguy pass, and rode solo for around 100 km for victory, said he had been feeling a little better in recent days.
"It's still not a 100 percent," he said. "It's sore but a little more solid. I have to sleep on my back, I can't sleep on my side and I get sick of it a little bit."
The American, once the right-hand man to four-times winner Lance Armstrong, had high ambitions in this Tour before the injury and there is no way of knowing what he might have achieved without the crash.
But he said he simply wanted to enjoy the consolation prize of his stage win.
"To win a stage in the Tour de France, it's fantastic, beyond my wildest dreams," he said.
"It's definitely disappointing because I knew that without the injury I could have been in a better position," added Hamilton, who is sixth overall, 6:35 behind Armstrong.
"But this victory makes up for it."
Not everybody on the Tour has been so enthralled by Hamilton's battling performance, with Telekom team boss Walter Godefroot calling it "a cheap American comedy" and questioning the reality of his fracture.
"It's unfortunate that Walter should have said that. But I welcome him to come to the team hotel and take a look at the X-ray, you clearly see the two fractures," said Hamilton.
"Everybody has a right to their opinion but it's disappointing that he's calling me a liar. C'est la vie."
With the finish in sight Hamilton now wants to concentrate on preserving his sixth place until he reaches Paris on Sunday.
"My team chief Bjarne Riis told us to stay focused and not think about Paris. If you think about Paris, you can lose a little bit," he said.
Armstrong relishing key time trial
BAYONNE, France (Reuters) -- Lance Armstrong is already looking forward to Saturday's potentially decisive time trial after a quiet final day in the Pyrenees.
The American, bidding for a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title, was happy to let compatriot Tyler Hamilton grab the limelight as he stayed safely in the peloton on the way to the Atlantic coast.
The Texan finished 24th, one minute and 55 seconds behind his former team mate to preserve his 67-second lead over nearest rival Jan Ullrich of Germany.
With two flat stages before Saturday's time trial, Armstrong is comfortable with his cushion over the German, despite being well beaten in the 47 km timed test last week.
"I've done the training and I've got everything ready," said Armstrong who avoided a repeat of the crash that almost wrecked his Tour on Monday.
"I guess it just depends on how I feel and (Ullrich) feels but I can tell you that I sleep better with a lead of a minute and seven seconds than I do with only 15 seconds.
"My goal is to win the stage. I've never lost the final time trial in a Tour de France and I don't plan on starting this year.
"Ullrich will be difficult to beat but going in, my objective is to win."
No joy for Millar in adopted home
BAYONNE, France (Reuters) -- Briton David Millar said he just wanted his Tour de France misery to end after failing to challenge on Wednesday's 16th stage near his adopted home of Biarritz.
The 24-year-old, based on the French Atlantic coast since turning professional in 1997, had talked about winning the stage before the start in Pau and was part of an early attack.
However he was unable to stay with American Tyler Hamilton and finished back in 145th place, 32 minutes and 20 seconds down. He is 53rd in the overall standings, almost two hours behind race leader Lance Armstrong.
During the Pyrenees stages Millar has been handicapped by a throat infection and bronchitis.
"I had the will but I couldn't do anything about being ill," he said. "I'm still sick and I suffered all the time.
"I wanted to win because the stage finished just a few kilometers from my home but there was nothing I could do on the second climb and was left behind.
"I'm just fed up. Fed up of suffering and fed up of being so far from 100 percent. I'll probably make it to Paris but I wish I didn't have to suffer so much."
Millar began the stage with a small Basque flag stitched on the sleeve of his Cofidis jersey.
"It's for all my friends in Biarritz and Bayonne," he said before the stage. "They always help me when at home in Biarritz and so I'm loyal to them."
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