Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer
A close call for Ludewig
Jörg Ludewig of Domina Vacanze finished 35th yesterday, 15 minutes behind the winner. It was a result with which he was satisfied, especially when he considers that it could have turned out much differently: "The Tour could have been over for me today," he wrote in his diary on www.radsport-news.com. We wear helmets with openings to let the air through, otherwise they would be too hot. The bad thing is that these slits also let insects in. Today I felt something under my helmet. So I took it off and ran my hands through my hair, and put it back on. I hoped everything was ok and kept going. Later, when I washed my hair in the shower after the stage, I found the wasp. That was a real scare, because I'm allergic to wasp stings, I get a shock and high fever. Thank goodness this particular insect didn't do his thing."
"Blackout" for Förster
How does a sprinter survive in the Pyrenees? With difficulty, says Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster in his diary on radsport-news.com. "The stage today - you can't imagine it. Until today, I couldn't imagine how much I could torture myself. When you see the results, you say, ok, he came in with the gruppetto. Only two riders dropped out. It wasn't that bad. But in reality it was hell. I had a blackout 100 km long, I can't remember anything about it."
Förster lost contact with the peloton on the second climb. "But (Magnus) Bäckstedt was still behind me, so I had nothing to be ashamed of. Christian (Henn) kept motivating me over the radio, "Come on, you can catch up on the descent." On the descent I did come closer, but I couldn't catch them. In the valley I rode practically the whole way alone between the cars. Five km before the next climb I caught up with the group. From then on I don't know any more."
"I ride up the mountains in a trance. Just keep on pedaling. Always going up. The fans leave only a narrow strip, they're all screaming. Everything swims before my eyes. Sometimes I hear my name out of the din. I didn't want to keep pouring water over my head today because that just makes things worse, but the temptation was too great. So more water over my head. Eventually I got the shakes. I dimly remember at some point seeing Robbie McEwen riding next to me. But otherwise we all rode alone. On the third-to-last mountain I saw the gruppetto before me. Christian kept cheering me on. I was able to ride into the group."
Just before the last climb he heard that the winner was in. What kept him going? "I suffered endlessly. Without thinking. Why, actually? If I had dropped out, nobody would have said anything. Climb off the bike and it's all over. But everybody was suffering the same. You're in the gruppetto and will do anything to stay there. It's like a herd instinct."