July 15, 2003
This year Hamilton was a star of the spring, winning the Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic and the Tour of Romandie. He was expected to be a major challenger to Lance Armstrong in the Tour until the crash.
Now, to widespread amazement, he remains a contender. Hamilton has passed through the Alps with the leaders and, after a rest day Wednesday for the riders, he is likely to do well in the next major challenge, a 47-kilometer (29-mile) individual time trial on Friday. Then come the Pyrenees, starting on Saturday.
Why is Hamilton carrying on, his collarbone taped in place and the tires on his bicycle underinflated to reduce bouncing?
"I'm doing it for my team and my sponsors, who got me this far by believing in me," he said. "And for my wife." Haven Hamilton serves informally as his trainer, even driving a scooter or car as he paces behind near their racing home in Gerona, Spain.
Abt also passes along one of those irresistible stories, probably apocryphal, about the Tour:
Some lore that is not found in any of the authorized history books: In 1971, Eddy Merckx and a couple of his Molteni teammates set a pace so rapid on the stage to Marseille that the pack arrived more than an hour ahead of schedule.
The mayor of Marseille then was Gaston Defferre, who held that office from 1953 until his death in 1986 and governed the city with an iron hand.
When the mayor arrived at the appointed hour to preside over the victory ceremony at the finish, he found the riders had come and gone. The podium was being dismantled, the crowd barriers had been packed away, Merckx was at his hotel and the fans — the voters — had left.
On the spot, the mayor banned the Tour de France from his city. Not until 1989, three years after his death, did the race return to Marseille.