By Laura Weislo in Reading, Pennsylvania
Rock Racing's Tyler Hamilton is familiar with riding through broken bones. The American who finished the 2003 Tour de France with a broken collarbone and won a stage in the process is once again suffering through injury to help his team. In Reading, it paid off as team-mate Oscar Sevilla powered away from the field to take the win in the second round of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown.
"It was a good day – it was a hard course, especially the three last laps," Hamilton told Cyclingnews. "Our leaders for today were Sevilla and Fred Rodriguez – if it came down to a sprint we had Fred, but we planned to be aggressive with Oscar and to protect him as much as possible.
"Oscar went away a lot earlier than we had planned – he sensed there was a good opportunity and he went for it. Obviously, at the end of the day it paid off."
But Hamilton, who fractured his wrist in the fifth stage of Tour of Colombia, had to once more endure the pain of riding through a broken bone in order to help his team. "I rode through ten days in Tour of Colombia, and it made it worse," Hamilton explained. "I took a week off, where I had it in a cast. I tried to milk the form from Colombia, but it's pretty hard."
The course in Reading, with its many turns and power hills made riding through the injury more difficult. "The more technical the course, the harder it is. I'm used to it. I just want to be a good team-mate. I know I'm not at my best with this injury, but I think I can still contribute to the team, and that's why I'm here."
Hamilton, who came back to racing after serving a two-year suspension for blood doping and the painfully public and drawn-out arbitration that preceded it, has been enjoying his time riding for the U.S. team with the outlaw image.
"It's been a blast riding for Rock Racing this year – it's been a lot of fun. We had a good ride down in Tour of Colombia. It was great for my fitness, and we won three stages." After Santiago Botero took the prologue with team-mates Victor Hugo Peña, Sevilla and Hamilton in second through fourth, the team racked up two more stages with Peña and Sevilla, and taking home the combination classification with Sevilla, giving the team its best performance to date.
"It was fun – it was a different race, I'd never done it before. I have a lot of respect for the South American riders," Hamilton said of the Colombian race. Now that the squad has won in Reading, the momentum seems to be building toward more success. But for the 37 year-old Hamilton, the wins haven't yet come. At this point, the future of his career as a bike racer is being considered on a one year at a time basis.
"I'm enjoying myself, having fun. We have a lot of young guys on the team, and I'm enjoying being a mentor for them. We're going to do the Tour of Qinghai – that will be my next race," Hamilton said, but added that he will contest Sunday's Triple Crown finale in Philadelphia first. Then, he said, "I'll let my hand heal and hopefully I'll be better by then."