Injured American gets win
By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2003
BAYONNE, France - Riding with a broken collarbone, it could be argued Tyler Hamilton shouldn't be in the Tour de France. Try telling him that.
Grimacing in discomfort, the 32-year-old, who long played second fiddle to Lance Armstrong, won his first stage Wednesday.
Armstrong, the four-time champion and Hamilton's former teammate on the U.S. Postal Service squad, finished 1 minute, 55 seconds behind to retain the lead and was among the first to congratulate him.
"I think this is the biggest day of the Tour," Armstrong said. "Incredible."
"To win a stage of the Tour de France is fantastic," he said. "It's beyond my wildest dreams. After (Wednesday), I'll forget about the disappointment."
Just 17 days earlier, the second day of the Tour, Hamilton believed his Tour was over. Caught in a crash with about 35 riders, he cracked his right collarbone in two places. But with his shoulder heavily bandaged and his bike adjusted to spare him from jolts on the road, he emerged from his team bus the next morning saying he would continue.
While the shoulder has improved, "It's still not 100 percent," he said. "It's sore. I have to sleep flat on my back every night. I'm kind of getting sick of it."
Hamilton said he believed he still could help his Danish CSC team by continuing.
"I don't think I'm a hero," he said. "I'm just doing my job."
Seventh entering Wednesday's stage, 9:02 behind Armstrong, Hamilton jumped to sixth, 1:10 behind fifth-place Iban Mayo, 1:19 behind fourth-place Haimar Zubeldia and 6:35 behind Armstrong.
Armstrong placed 24th, finishing with the same time as Jan Ullrich and maintaining his 67-second lead over him.
Hamilton rode for Armstrong's team from 1995-2001. They remain neighbors, and Armstrong congratulated Hamilton by phone message and e-mail when he won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege World Cup classic in April and the Tour of Romandie in May.
"We're good friends," said Hamilton, the sixth American to win a Tour stage. "A lot of my success today has to do with my experience with Lance, and he's been a big mentor for me."
Hamilton won the hard way, breaking ahead in a solo effort to ride most of the last half of the stage alone. He surged ahead ascending the Col Bagarguy pass, a steep 51/2-mile climb to 4,379 feet. From there, he raced 54.3 miles to the finish.
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