Marty Jemison’s 1999 Vuelta Diary



Here is a short note from Marty Jemison as he starts the Vuelta:

Marty Jemison. Photo by Beth Schneider/courtesy Marty Jemison
Marty Jemison. Photo by Beth Schneider/courtesy Marty Jemison

“I raced 17 days last month, and even with that I think I am just finding my legs again. I would like to have a good Vuelta but my primary concern is helping in the sprints and staying close to Tyler Hamilton during the stages. Tyler is looking really good.

The GP Eddy Merckx was a great experience, I teamed up with Tyler for the 2-man TT. It is 68 kms long, two laps of 34 kms in the center of Brussels. We were 3rd after the 1st lap and would have finished 3rd but Tyler flatted with 2kms to go and we fell to 7th. But what a ride! We were working well together. Tyler had just flown over the day before so he was a bit off, but my legs were good. I think we could have contended for the win if Tyler had been a little fresher, maybe next year!

Not too much to say about the Vuelta so far, I had a solid Prologue, finishing 22nd , same time as Ulrich. Jan looks solid. I predict he will finish in the top ten.”

9/8/99 – Team Sport:

Tyler is our protected rider….. yesterday Tyler had a bike mechanical in a bad moment…… Rabobank was at the front and on a mission. The bad moment was compounded by the fact that we were approaching a cat 3 climb, Tyler was getting a bike change…. Initially I was thinking no big deal… three teammates working with Tyler in the wheel (Marty, Benoit, Frankie) With my teammates , I began to close the gap rather quickly…….The exponential effort increased the closer we came to then back of the group….Oh we did our job, we made it…… but aahhh I burnt more matches than I really expected…… big gap and Rabo was turning the screws……It took the next 10kms before I could think of moving up again………. Graham Watson must have seen “something” because during the effort he began to shoot pictures!!! this kinda told me it was a difficult moment……not to mention what I was feeling……. So, I could see Graham’s lens and also……..Bobby Julich loaded with water bottles…..inching his way to the front.

Can we expect a Photo???? But this was not a photo session…. believe me

Today…. 20kms to go…. the bunch is chasing a group of 11. Going fast as you may expect….. pursue the group,….. bring your sprinter to the front etc, etc.. But not this time….. over the radio we heard that Tyler had crashed…… so myself (Marty), Frankie, Benoit and Frank hit the brakes…. from 60kph to nearly 0….. Tyler was a dot on the horizon in the rear….in front a dust cloud vanishing ahead …. and in the calm of the storm 4 ghostly figures…… waiting…..We hooked Tyler and opened up the engines…… Frank put it this way at dinner…..”we had to hit the brakes before we crashed into the back of the peloton” They were doing 60+kph we were doing???? faster…….

Dylan added to the dinner conversation……. Koos attacked at kilometer 0….. solo. Dylan was next to him in the front before he attacked and asked if he wanted to go with him “NO” was Dylan’s reply… like “ell no”

9/12/99 – The stage to Angrilu

The stage was epic. There was a lot of talk about how hard the climb was going to be, I was not really concerned with that, it is always a matter of how strong you are relative to the others in the bunch.

I had a triple chain ring on 30×25, so it was like mountain biking, spinning nicely for nearly half of the 13kms climb. The stage had 4 climbs in 175kms, cat 2 , cat 1, cat 1 and esp climb {special climb, Angril). The bunch was down to less that 50 riders at the top of the first cat 1. I was about 10sec down over the top, just next to the course director’s car, thinking it would be easy to bridge on the descent, but it was dangerous. I came upon several riders in the ditch. The roads here in Alicante are covered with carbon (from mining??) and diesel from the cars. It is very, very slippery and treacherous when wet, which it was.

I did not bridge back, I was one of the lucky few who avoided a crash. I rode the rest of the stage solo or with only 3-4 riders. It seemed that everyone was on their own. The next cat 1 climb was so slippery that when I stood the back wheel would spin! All I could think about was how I would climb 20+% pitches on Angrilu. But it turned out to be adventurous climb really, I was not suffering , I had the appropriate gear, and the fans were amazing. They estimated 400,000 (a possible exaggeration), no wheels slipping and fewer cars using the road. I passed riders who were pedaling squares, happy that I had a triple ring. I finished 46th, 13 minutes down on Tonkov (the victor) and Jimenez ( you would have to see the finish to understand).

9/13/99 – 185kms

A rollercoaster route along the coast in monsoon like conditions, wind , rain and flooding. This stage was harder than yesterday due to the conditions and the fact that 15 riders attacked from the gun. ONCE drove so hard for 60-80 kms that at times almost everyone was dropped except Olano. Groups came back and some yellow was present again. Bottom line; it was impressive and there was a lot of suffering. It was riding on the rivet all day in unbelievable conditions, crazy, single file, split, dropped, regain, split, etc. Riders arrived in small groups and alone at the finish line, the results looked more like a mountain top finish.

It was freezing cold in the showers, but the feelings were unanimous, sounds of agony were vocalized–with a bit of humor because we had suffered and now it was over. Next we shared a bus ride and flight to Zaragoza….. exchanging glances from time to time, asking the 5 W’s, and How!!!!

One bad day/night

I have a slight fever as I write this; two nights ago I did not feel like having dinner, but did so anyway. During the night I was hot/cold, and later I vomited and had diarrhea. In the morning I forced down some breakfast, thinking I could be strong enough to at least make the groupetto, but that was not the case. I was in the team cars 3+ times in the first 60 kms. When the peloton came to the first categorized climb I was shelled, game over. My legs ached, my breathing and HR were erratic and I was feeling dizzy as the cars came past.

I believe it was food poisoning. We were in a truck stop hotel alongside a highway that was very dirty. Apparently a few riders from Mapei and TVM complained of diarrhea. This morning, when I left the hotel, Benoit and Julian said they were up in the night also.

This is the first European stage race I have not completed in 10 years. I was completely empty and the race left me. There is nothing else to say.


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