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Go Russ Go! The Russell Van Hout diary
Newly-crowned Australian road champ Russell Van Hout isn't here for a holiday. In the form of his life, he's come to the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under on a mission: to confirm his ability in a major stage race and convince selectors of his worth for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Join Cyclingnews as we embark on our week-long road trip with Russ.
Stage 2 - January 19, 2006
A few upsets; now it's all about the break
I actually went and did a five k warm-up before the race, because I knew I was going to be one of the riders in the early break to try and get away - and I'm glad I did, they felt a bit funny!
But when the race started, I felt really good - I was up there with everything and I actually felt good all day bar 20 kilometres in the middle; you're going to have a downer at some point in the race where you're not going to feel 100 percent, and that was probably around the middle of the race for me today. Either side of that, I felt absolutely awesome and I'm happy with my form.
We knew it was going to be a break; we knew they wouldn't let Gene [Bates] go, but we were hoping they would let me or Robert Maclachlan go, so our goal was to get me or him up the road in the first 20 [kilometres] to try and get over the KOM.
I ended up getting in a small break about five k before the KOM with two other riders, but with the bunch attacking, they caught me with 400 metres to go, so that was a bit of a bummer. But it made the race really hard for the first 40[km], which made that [winning] breakaway get away.
We had Crake up the road and they [the break] were only at 20, 25 seconds when the AG2R team called a piss-stop in the bunch, and I think that was maybe a little bit uncalled for when the break was so close. Teams might have wanted to get across still, and if we attacked when they were doing that [taking a toilet break], everyone thinks that's rude. I think when the break's that close, that's a little bit rude, too - a little bit of respect [is warranted]. Nothing against Simon [Gerrans] or his team, but if we didn't have a rider in that break, I or one of our other team members would have been going if they hadn't called that.
We did have two in it, but three or four of the riders came back and one of our riders was in that. Paul had an awesome day to stay away and hit the group with 30 or 40 to go - good ride from him. Unfortunately, Liberty had the two riders there, so they caught up seven minutes on us on the team GC.
Alby's [Allan Davis] a top bloke and very, very good professional rider - he deserves a win here and he's done it well. Unfortunately for Paul, he's never going to beat Alby in a sprint and he had to get away. He tried - he went at 30, 40k to go and Alby caught him in the middle of that - but he still rode an awesome race and I think to finish second behind a classy rider like Allan, it's nothing to be ashamed of.
I'm sure Alby would have been thinking Paul's not an experienced road rider all the time in that break. He's the best sprinter there and you just know what sort of gaps you can ride across to; he would have read that race a bit better than Paul. It does come down to experience, and getting to know yourself and other riders.
For myself, I was a little bit upset because after the first day, I thought it was very possible for me to reach top ten on GC with my form. I still will try, but I lost a minute today; I had a puncture at three kilometres to go at the bottom of the hill, and I could never get back on the group when they're moving to the finish like that. I lost one minute and four spots on the GC for myself - it doesn't look good when I'm trying to impress the selectors for Commonwealth Games... so I hope they understand that.
It was me against the bunch and you're going to lose time. Now that I've lost another minute, maybe they might let me go now and I can aim for a stage win. AG2R rode a very strong race - they had to for Simon - but at least three to four riders from each team is not handling it because of the heat or because of their preparation. There is half the bunch that is not handling it well.
I'm lucky in that I generally get better as the tour goes on and I am feeling good; I'm seeing a lot of the other guys really starting to suffer already; it was 41 degrees out there today and each day's getting hotter. By Saturday, it's goes to be like 44, 45 out there on the road - ridiculous temperatures... I'm ready for this heat. I've been training around in this heat for a few weeks now, and most years, Tour Down Under has been hot; there's only been a couple where it hasn't been, so I'd rather race in the heat than the rain.
Tomorrow's all about the break, and if the race is going to go similar to today, once the guys get up the road that aren't any threat to Simon or the other GC riders, they'll [AG2R - Prevoyance] will try and shut [the chase] down and let it go. Hopefully, they'll realise I'm not a threat now, being nearly six minutes down, and they might let me go...
In a breakaway, I also have a good chance to win the sprints and different guys won the sprints today, so I'm still in fourth and I'm only a sprint win away from leading it again. And if I am in a breakaway and get a result in a stage, I'm going to get some time back on that in general classement. So my main goal now is to get in a break and go for a stage, because everything else will come with that.