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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 3 - January 20, 2006
A sticky situation
Well, we went out for the teams class today, if we figured if Liberty had one or two [in the break], we would have one or two to match that.
So we did everything we had to do, and it worked out as good as could for that; but [for the stage win], the Liberty rider [Barredo] was too strong in the end and rode away - he was just too good a the time. From what I heard, he was ridiculously too strong for that bunch. Liberty has certainly come here with a very strong team; it must be in their program of events to run [well] in a few tours early in the season.
But overall, we kept our lead in the teams - it did narrow down a bit - but we kept our lead by a few minutes; now one more road stage... we're going to keep fighting it. Everything can change tomorrow though; it can change very easily. The heat's definitely getting to people, and it's going to get hotter tomorrow, so there's going to be a lot of people really cruising up that hill and rolling to the finish - but not UniSA!
It was so hot today that just after the stage, I was waiting to get into the van to drive home and my shoes nearly came off my foot because it was stuck on the road! Then the tar was stuck on the floor of the car... it's still on my shoes now! Tomorrow, we might get some see breezes, but it's going to be a hot day; two or three days like that, if the riders aren't used to it, they're cooked.
Everyone was feeling pretty good today; Matt [Hayman] and Ben [Day] did a great job - congratulations. Obviously, they won't be expected to do anything major over the hill tomorrow because they'll be affected a little bit, but they might be able to do a bit of work before the climb, keeping the rest of us satisfied and we'll take over once we hit the climb, I guess.
That's where the race starts every year on the Willunga stage - not that I like it like that, but it just does; it's too hard a course to break away, and it's showed every year. Breaks have tried, but it's gruelling bitumen, undulating hills and strong winds, and from what I can remember, no one's stayed in a breakaway before the climb.
There will be a break that goes, though - I just don't think it will be the right move. If a Liberty guy goes, one of us will go; we've haven't had a discussion [about that yet], but that's just the obvious plan - we're just going to have to match everything they do. We're have to protect our teams [classification], if we protect our teams, we're obviously protecting Gene's and Chris [Jongewaard's] places as well, because they'll be watching the better-placed Liberty riders. Looking at it right now, I think it's best if we win the teams [above all else], and if we win the teams, we've going to have Gene and Jongewaard in the top 10.
Having said all that, myself and Paul Crake might be able to get sneak away just before the climb and they [Liberty] might watch each other and not chase us down for the stage [win].
Now, the [winning] break might not happen until after climb; last year, I was working for Gene [Bates] and I led him up the climb and we pretty much caught everyone halfway up the climb. But with 500 metres to go, the Spanish guys just hit us; they hit us that hard that we had to say, 'We've just got to keep riding our tempo because they've just gone.'
It was very close to the top and we could just see them going over the top, but there was three of them and they just hammered it to the finish. If Liberty get away like they did last year, they'll win the tour. If we can't go with them and they get three up the road like that, they'll take teams and individual GC... we've just got to make sure they don't do it! That can happen, but it doesn't happen like that every year. I'll be surprised if it does happen again like that, you can't mirror the race; if Gerrans gets with them, they'll start playing one on one.
I think Gerrans will win. That's all I'm going to say.
AG2R did exactly what they needed to do today, but as they would be, they were looking tired towards the end - that's human. Their job will be to work to the bottom of the climb, and they're only going to be two riders - Gerrans and the little guy [Dumoulin] - maybe one more of them if they can, so it's going to come down to whether Gerrans can stay with them on the climb.
Personally, I've had a few misfortunes and punctures in the tour. After that first day, I thought it was definitely reachable to get top 10 until I had a puncture the other day. I really wanted to impress the selectors for my Commonwealth Games run; I feel like I'm ready for the Games, I'm training for the Games, and I feel like I'm coming up in form.
I've had a really good month, and I was hoping for a little bit more than I've had, but getting that road jersey was a big bonus and I hope that try me out for once. They [the selectors] haven't used me before, so I think it's about time they at least found it if I could do something.
Ciao for now,